‘Wild Hogs’ Zooms Past ‘Zodiac’ In Box-Office Race

John Travolta buddy film earns $38 million its opening weekend.

The Top Five

#1 “Wild Hogs” ($38 million)
#2 “Zodiac” ($13.1 million)
#3 “Ghost Rider” ($11.5 million)
#4 “Bridge to Terabithia” ($8.5 million)
#5 “The Number 23″ ($7 million)

John Travolta and company are definitely in hog heaven today as their broad comedy “Wild Hogs” played to a very broad audience, raking in a stellar $38 million over the weekend. The tale of four midlife-crisis-addled men who take to the road ran roughshod over the competition in a pretty robust post-Oscar weekend. Don’t look for Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen to be accepting prizes for the comedy at next year’s Academy Awards, but with that haul our bets are on the hogs riding again in the near future.

So much for stellar reviews. David Fincher’s long-awaited serial-killer flick “Zodiac” failed to mesmerize audiences the way it did critics, earning a so-so $13.1 million its debut weekend. A nearly-three-hour running time couldn’t have helped. Paramount may be questioning the decision to release this dark drama in March instead of the fall, when it might have been able to ride critical praise to nominations and sustained art-house dollars.

“Ghost Rider” fell from its top spot after two #1 weeks but still managed $11.5 million, bringing its total take to an impressive $94.7 million. Breaking the $100 million barrier isn’t an everyday occurrence for a spring flick — particularly one that was panned like this — so Sony has to be thrilled with every dollar the Nic Cage superhero flick earns.

And it didn’t quite crack the top five, but “Black Snake Moan” managed something more than a whimper, earning $4 million in a little more than 1,200 theaters.

How’d We Do?

A “Wild Hogs” defeat of “Zodiac” ensured that celebrity guest prognosticator Zack Snyder (director of “300″) was out of the running for the “Projection Booth” title this week. That meant it came down to the nitty-gritty numbers between this writer and Larry Carroll. In the end, my unwavering belief in “Wild Hogs” (or pessimism about America’s taste, you decide) meant a win over Carroll’s lower box-office guess (see “Projection Booth: Battle Of The Bikers — ‘Wild Hogs’ Vs. ‘Ghost Rider’ “ ). And so the lead has widened … for now.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (10)
Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (7)
Celebrity guest (2)

In Perspective

He’s in his fourth decade of being a huge movie star, but it took John Travolta until this weekend to power a movie to a $30 million opening. That may be surprising news considering what an icon Travolta has become thanks to roles in everything from “Grease” to “Pulp Fiction,” but as you can see from the chart below, neither of those films opened to huge numbers. Instead, Travolta’s list of top-five box-office openings — before “Wild Hogs” — is dominated by conventional action flicks. Take a look:

· “Be Cool” (2005) — $23.4 million
· “Face/Off” (1997) — $23.3 million
· “The General’s Daughter” (1999) — $22.3 million
· “Ladder 49″ (2004) — $22 million
· “Swordfish” (2001) — $18.1 million

Next Week

Its director has but one feature directing credit to his name. The biggest star in the cast is best known for his role hiding behind a mask in a musical. And yet the studios seem to be quaking in fear at the lone major release this coming weekend. The film is “300,” and it has promised unrelenting action and awe-inspiring visuals ever since the first teaser trailer hit months ago. This coming weekend, it’s time for the bloody retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae to put up or shut up.

The only other new flicks hoping to cause even a small ripple in the box-office waters are a couple of limited releases, “The Namesake” and “The Host.” The former flick stars Kal Penn, and is a dramatic tale of cultural conflict among Indian immigrants in Massachusetts, based on the critically acclaimed Jhumpa Lahiri novel of the same name — it’s safe to say Penn hopes casting agents catch this one before picking up that “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj” DVD. “The Host” is a South Korean horror flick that broke box-office records back home. Clearly the makers are hoping the international language of monster movies translates over here.

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

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