'Number 23' Misses #1 Mark; 'Ghost Rider' Holds Box-Office Title

Cage action pic tops Carrey thriller; 'Reno 911!' opens in top five.

The Top Five

#1 "Ghost Rider" ($19.7 million)

#2 "The Number 23" ($15.1 million)

#3 "Bridge to Terabithia" ($13.5 million)

#4 "Reno 911!: Miami" ($10.4 million)

#5 "Norbit" ($9.7 million)

Movies may have been on everyone's mind over the weekend with the Oscars being handed out Sunday (read [article id="1553194"]"Marty's Party: Scorsese, 'Departed' (And Effie Too) Get Oscar Gold"[/article] and check out [article id="1553197"]photos from the show[/article]), but that didn't translate into blockbuster earnings for the current films at your local multiplex. The box-office chart was topped by two critically reviled flicks, each starring a Hollywood A-lister.

Leading the top five for the second consecutive week was "Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage. Despite dropping a steep 56 percent after notching the biggest opening of 2007 last week (see [article id="1552753"]"'Ghost Rider' Burns 'Bridge' In Box-Office Fight"[/article]), the superhero flick maintained its top standing, earning $19.7 million. With its two-week gross standing at an impressive $78.6 million, sequel prospects remain entirely possible -- though not quite a sure thing.

Less likely to spawn a sequel is the conspiracy thriller "The Number 23." What would it be, anyway -- "The Number 24"? Earning $15.1 million in its opening weekend, the flick starring Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen failed to break out in any big way. Cue the ongoing debate whether audiences are willing to accept Carrey in roles when he's not mugging for the camera. The middling gross of this one is more likely caused by a lackluster product rather than Carrey's capable skills.

Though "Reno 911!: Miami" landed behind "The Number 23" -- opening at #4 -- its $10.4 gross has to be considered less of a disappointment. Certainly there were lower expectations on this lower-budgeted comedy based on the cult Comedy Central hit.

Eddie Murphy's comedy "Norbit" held a spot in the top five for a third week, earning $9.7 million. With a gross standing at $74.6 million, the $100 million barrier looks reachable, though not a sure bet.

Two smaller flicks opened well out of the top five but registered faintly on the charts. Both Billy Bob Thornton's inspirational "The Astronaut Farmer" and the ripped-from-the-history-books drama "Amazing Grace" earned a little over $4 million in their respective openings.

How'd We Do

Mr. Fantastic himself, Ioan Gruffudd, selflessly picked "Ghost Rider" over his own flick, "Amazing Grace," over the weekend -- but in the end it wasn't enough. MTV News writer Larry Carroll's $25 million prediction for the Nic Cage flick, while well over what it actually pulled in, still was closer to mark than Gruffudd's inflated $30 million guess (see [article id="1553019"]"Projection Booth: Can Carrey's '23' Out-Spook Cage's 'Ghost Rider'?"[/article]). Larry's second win in the row has made the gap between second and first a little too close for comfort for this writer.

Prognosticator (Weeks Won)

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor (9)

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer (7)

Celebrity guests (2)

In Perspective

You don't have to see "The Number 23" (in which the star plays multiple roles) to know there are at least two Jim Carreys. There is the Carrey that audiences and studios adore, the funnyman who can open a comedy to mind boggling numbers (witness the $67 million opening of "Bruce Almighty") and then there is that other guy who is all too mortal at the box office. Time and again, Carrey admirably chooses to stretch himself in dramatic directions and for the most part, his audience has been reluctant to follow. His latest, "The Number 23," furthers that unfortunate pattern. Here is a look at how Carrey has done with change of pace roles in their opening weekends throughout his career.

· "The Number 23" (2007) & #8212; $15.1 million

· "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) & #8212; $8.1 million

· "The Majestic (2001) & #8212; $4.9 million

· "Man on the Moon" (1999) & #8212; $7.5 million

· "The Truman Show" (1998) & #8212; $31.5 million

Next week

Two years ago next weekend, Disney cast a hyper-masculine star against type in a family comedy and rode "The Pacifier" to a $30 million opening. This year they're hoping for similar results by casting four male stars in an unlikely buddy film. The flick is "Wild Hogs," and the motley crew is made up of John Travolta, William H. Macy, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence.

There's also some testosterone on display in director Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow" follow-up, "Black Snake Moan" in the person of Samuel L. Jackson. But it's co-star Christina Ricci who will have tongues wagging thanks to her metaphorical -- and literal -- naked performance as a woman chained to a radiator in this bluesy drama.

Few directors get us to sit up and take notice like David Fincher of "Seven" and "Fight Club" fame. He's back in serial killer territory this week with "Zodiac," his epic telling of the search for the notorious serial killer. Leading the way in this one are Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., playing a trio of men haunted by the seemingly unsolvable case.

Check out everything we've got on "Ghost Rider", "The Number 23" and "Norbit."

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