’300′ Destroys Box-Office Rivals With Record-Setting Haul

Bloody action film earns $70 million; 'Wild Hogs' takes another $28 million for #2.

The Top Five

#1 “300″ ($70 million)
#2 “Wild Hogs” ($28 million)
#3 “Bridge to Terabithia” ($6.86 million)
#4 “Ghost Rider” ($6.80 million)
#5 “Zodiac” ($6.77 million)

The magic numbers this weekend were 300 and 70. The former is the title of the biggest film to debut at the box office in 2007. The 70? That’s the astounding record-breaking haul, in millions, that the mega action film with no big-name stars took in its first three days. Like the Spartan warriors the Zack Snyder-directed flick follows, “300″ was a lean, mean fighting machine, tearing through the competition and laying waste to everything in its path — and becoming one of the first honest-to-goodness phenomena of the year.

The resulting gross represents the biggest-ever March opening for any film and the third-highest all-time debut for an R-rated film. Clearly that well-earned rating did little to scare audiences away from checking out massive amounts of bloodletting, decapitations and violence of every conceivable kind in theaters.

Anyone who’s seen this stylish flick knows sequel opportunities are limited, but you can be sure there will be positive repercussions for the flick’s relatively little-known star, Gerard Butler, and director, Zack Snyder, who was coming off a solid hit in 2004′s “Dawn of the Dead.” Snyder, who hopes to next helm the eagerly anticipated film version of “The Watchmen,” probably won’t need to do nearly as much convincing to get the project going this summer now that he’s two-for-two.

While the discrepancy between first and second place at the box office was pretty wide, the news for “Wild Hogs” continues to be great. Dropping only 29 percent in its second weekend, the flick held strong with $28 million, good for second place. Its two-week haul of $77.4 million looks to grow significantly before all is said and done.

“Bridge to Terabithia” shows decent legs in its fourth week, coming in at #3. Nipping at the kid flick’s heels was “Ghost Rider,” which has now passed the golden $100 million mark. Rounding out the top five is less of a success story, the critically hailed and commercially ignored “Zodiac.”

How’d We Do?

Anyone paying attention had an inkling that “300″ would decimate the competition in its opening weekend, so we won’t pat ourselves on the back too hard, but the fact is all three prognosticators correctly pegged it as the top film at the box office (see “Projection Booth: No Battle Here — ’300′ Will Triumph Over ‘Hogs’ “ ). And so, as it often does, the “Projection Booth” winner came down to a numbers game. Celebrity guest Ryan Pinkston thought the Spartan warriors would be good for only $40 million in “300″ ‘s opening frame while MTV writer Larry Carroll thought the take would be a mere $27 million. While this writer also underestimated the flick, the $45 million prediction was closest to the mark and so the glory was mine. Leonidas would be proud.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies Editor (11)
Larry Carroll, MTV News Writer (7)
Celebrity guests (2)

In Perspective

Blockbusters are all about attracting the widest audience possible. Aren’t they? While Disney flicks and family comedies look to grab the dollar of everyone in your family from the 9-year-old to the 90-year-old, there are some flicks aimed squarely at an adult audience that compete with the big (family friendly) boys. “300″ is just the latest example of an R-rated film that transcended the restricting rating to earn huge dollars in its opening weekend. Take a look at the all-time top five R-rated openings, now featuring “300″ in the third slot.

· “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003) — $91.7 million
· “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) — $83.8 million
· “300″ (2007) — $70 million
· “Hannibal” (2001) — $58 million
· “8 Mile” (2002) — $51.2 million

Next week

It’s relatively easy to ride a franchise to big numbers in successive sequels, but next weekend we’ll find out if the makers of “Saw” can win with an all-new horror franchise. That isn’t to say that the conceit of “Dead Silence” is entirely new — a deadly doll was at the heart of the “Child’s Play” series, of course. And the “Saw” guys have brought Donnie Wahlberg, veteran of two “Saw” films, along for good luck.

In his second outing as a director — the less said about “Head of State” the better — Chris Rock will try yet again to translate his insightful stand-up to the big screen. Surprisingly, Rock has yet to headline a comedy flick that’s broken through in a big way. This time out he’s taking on the complex mind of the married man with “I Think I Love My Wife.”

We wouldn’t call it a premonition that Sandra Bullock’s latest film, “Premonition”, will be a disappointment when it opens on Friday. Instead let’s just call it an educated guess based on a ho-hum trailer and concept (her husband’s dead or maybe he’s not … yawn). Sorry, Sandy — we’ll catch you in the next one.

Check out everything we’ve got on “300,” ” Wild Hogs” and “Bridge to Terabithia”.

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