Projection Booth: Battle Of The Bikers — ‘Wild Hogs’ Vs. ‘Ghost Rider’

'Zodiac' also hopes to outrun Nicolas Cage's superhero flick this weekend.

Two weeks of “Ghost Rider” dominance at the box office seems destined to end thanks to a trio of new releases. Take note, historians: This may be the only weekend ever to feature two films about motorcycling men that include a small role by Peter Fonda. We smell double-feature potential!

“Wild Hogs” may have a poster that looks like it was made on a home computer, but it is the all-too-real deal. Separately, at least three of its stars have opened movies to huge numbers in the past (we still love you, William H. Macy), and Disney surely is hoping Macy, John Travolta, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence all bring their respective audiences along for the ride this weekend. It’s the perfect film for those who thought “City Slickers” had too many of those damn cows.

A much different movie-going experience arrives in David Fincher’s epic “Zodiac.” The director of “Seven” has returned to serial-killer territory with this exhaustive, meticulous re-creation of the pursuit of the Bay Area’s Zodiac killer (see “Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo Hunt Ultimate Serial Killer In ’Zodiac’ “ ). Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo as three men who each became obsessed with the case in unique ways, the flick is garnering some of the best reviews of Fincher’s career, not to mention any film released thus far this year. However, those positives don’t necessarily mean much when it comes to the box office, as we all know. Just how many film fans want to spend their date-night movie dollar on a nearly three-hour tale in which there is no shootout in the end remains to be seen.

Opening in about half the number of theaters as “Zodiac” is the much-talked-about new flick from “Hustle & Flow” director Craig Brewer, “Black Snake Moan.” This story of a young woman (Christina Ricci) chained to the radiator of a sometime blues musician (Samuel L. Jackson) has divided critics for months (see “Timberlake, Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson Spill Secrets Of ’Black Snake Moan’ “ ). It’s sure to do the same for audiences this weekend.

The Predictions: We’re humbled here in the Projection Booth this week to be visited by Zack Snyder, the director of one of the first must-see flicks of 2007, “300.” Next week his “Sin City”-esque action flick could be the dominant new addition to the multiplex, but it’s this week we’re talking about — and there are predictions to make, so here goes.

What will be #1? How much will it rake in?
Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Wild Hogs” ($21 million)
“As much as it pains me to type this, I fear that ’Wild Hogs’ is gonna take the crown this weekend. They’ve been promoting the Hell’s Angel out of it, and it will appeal to whoever these people are that crawl out of the woodwork every time a bad Tim Allen family movie hits theaters. With all my heart, I hope I’m wrong, but at least I can take solace in one thing: After this weekend, I’ll never again have to watch that awkwardly cut commercial that has Martin Lawrence and his ’Do tell!’ catchphrase. ’Hogs’ will go wild with $21 million.”

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Wild Hogs” ($25 million)
“I loved ’Zodiac.’ It’s smart, engrossing big-screen entertainment of the first order — the kind of film that just isn’t made anymore. So of course it won’t come in first place. No way. That honor will go to ’Wild Hogs,’ a film hyped endlessly recently by the magical marketing team at Disney and John Travolta (heck, he even spoke to me last week — see “John Travolta: ’Timberlake Has My Moves, For Sure’ “ ). It’s opening in a bunch more theaters than ’Zodiac’ and is at least kind of family friendly. All of that adds up to a #1 opening.”

Zack Snyder, director of “300”: “Zodiac” ($22 million)
” ’Zodiac’ against ’Ghost Rider’? Ooh, that’s tough. I think ’Zodiac’, because ’Zodiac’ is a good movie. I hope it does win. I want people to go see a good movie, so I want people to see ’Zodiac.’ ’Ghost Rider’ ’s crazy — I think I lost a brain cell or two [watching] that movie. How much will it make? Wow! I would never curse my friends like that. OK, $22 million … um, can I phone a friend?”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Ghost Rider,” “Wild Hogs” and “Zodiac.”

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