‘Ghost Rider’ Burns ‘Bridge’ In Box-Office Fight

'Terabithia' opens at #2 over holiday weekend; 'Norbit' drops to #3.

The Top Five

#1 “Ghost Rider” ($51.5 million)
#2 “Bridge to Terabithia” ($29 million)
#3 “Norbit” ($20.7 million)
#4 “Music and Lyrics” ($16 million)
#5 “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls” ($14.3 million)

Nicolas Cage rode to the top of the box-office heap with “Ghost Rider” and earned a 2007 opening-weekend-best haul of $44.5 million from Friday to Sunday — a total that jumped to $51.5 million when the Monday holiday was factored in. The awesome take wasn’t only this year’s biggest debut, it also represented the best opening ever for a Cage film. That’s right, better than “The Rock,” better than “Con Air,” better than “It Could Happen to You.” OK, that last one isn’t too surprising. Still, the huge total for “Ghost Rider” is all the more impressive considering the film wasn’t even screened for most critics — usually a kiss of death for a flick of this size (the budget for “Ghost Rider” is reported to be over $100 million).

Opening at #2 over Presidents’ Day weekend was the family-friendly fantasy “Bridge to Terabithia.” The film, which enjoyed surprisingly strong reviews despite similarly strong complaints about a deceptive ad campaign that plays down the dramatic heft of the material, made the most of kids’ long weekend. While “Terabithia” didn’t reach “Narnia” numbers by any stretch, Disney can’t be too disappointed with the debut.

That’s probably not the case for Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, whose romantic comedy “Music and Lyrics” didn’t exactly score a note-perfect opening weekend. The movie, which debuted on Valentine’s Day, racked up $16 million from Friday to Monday (and $5.5 million Wednesday and Thursday), good for just fourth place.

Another new film that failed to contend for the top was “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls.” After astounding openings for his two previous films, Perry failed to match those surprising successes this time around. If anything, the surprise was this one’s middling performance, earning $14.3 million — a strong number, but nowhere close to “Madea’s Family Reunion” which opened with $30 million less than a year ago. The spy thriller “Breach” — starring Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper — missed the top five but managed a respectable $12.3 million opening thanks to positive reviews.

How’d We Do

Perhaps this writer slightly overestimated Tyler Perry’s loyal following. Losing in the “Projection Booth” is embarrassing enough, but having your pick barely squeak into the top five at all? Mortifying. No such embarrassments for MTV News’ Larry Carroll who correctly pegged “Ghost Rider” as the must-see flick of the weekend (see “Projection Booth: Can Box-Office Champ Tyler Perry Top ‘Ghost Rider’?” ). We’ll see if he can make it a streak when we check back in next week.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies Editor (9)
Larry Carroll, MTV News Writer (6)
Celebrity guest (2)

In Perspective

Quirky and kooky aren’t usually adjectives one associates with Hollywood leading men, but Nicolas Cage isn’t just any A-list actor. Sure, the list below of his top-five box-office openings scream action and adventure, but it’s the stuff between — films like “Adaptation” and “Leaving Las Vegas” — that have rounded out a multifaceted career. Despite the impressive box-office takes of the flicks listed here, Cage has yet to star in a sequel. That’s about to change with production set to begin on a second “National Treasure” film. But that’s in the future. For now, take a look at some of the biggest films — in terms of box-office performance — of Cage’s past.

· “National Treasure” (2004) — $35.1 million
· “Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000) — $25.3 million
· “The Rock” (1996) — $25 million
· “Con Air” (1997) — $24.1 million
· “Face/Off” (1997) — $23.3 million

Next Week

Don’t expect a laugh riot from Jim Carrey when “The Number 23″ comes out this weekend. The dark side of Carrey is on display in this psychological thriller that explores the strange phenomena of one not-so-innocent two-digit number. Go on, guess the date it opens.

Numbers also figure in the title of Carrey’s chief box-office competition next week. “Reno 911! Miami” will try to translate the cult status of the Comedy Central show into big bucks on a larger scale. Cameos by the likes of the Rock and Paul Rudd seek to give it a little big screen heft.

Finally, if a feel-good drama about a small town guy with big dreams is your speed, you may want to check out Billy Bob Thornton in “The Astronaut Farmer.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Ghost Rider” and “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Music and Lyrics”.

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