Ghost Rider Cruises to Victory

Ghost Rider from Sony Pictures and Marvel Ent. revved up the North American box office over the holiday weekend, taking in an estimated $51.5 million to easily claim the top spot and set a new Presidents Day opening record. Bridge to Terabithia from Disney and Walden Media earned around $30 million to debut at No. 2, pushing last week’s champ, the Eddie Murphy comedy Norbit, to third place with approximately $20.7 million in its sophomore outing.

Based on the Marvel Comics property, Ghost Rider stars Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist who gives up his soul to become a flaming-skulled avenging demon in order to defeat the power-hungry son of Satan. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil), the pic may not end up being the most profitable comic book adaptation of recent years, but it did well for a lesser-known superhero property. The film’s opening gross is on par with that of Daredevil, which starred Ben Affleck and opened to $40 million in February of 2003. With Cage’s star power lending credibility to the production, Ghost Rider managed to outshine such other marginalized comic creations as Constantine, Hellboy and Spawn.

With kids out of school for holiday, Bridge to Terabithia did respectable business despite a confusing advertising campaign. Sold as an effects-laden fantasy-adventure yarn, the coming-of-age tearjerker based on the kid lit favorite by author Katherine Paterson debuted to positive reviews and provided distributor Buena Vista with its biggest February opening to date. The family pic also serves as a successful first live-action outing for director Gabor Csupo, who is best known for producing the Rugrats and Wild Thornberrys cartoons.

Warner Bros.’ romantic comedy Music and Lyrics opend at No. 4 with an estimated $16 million, while Lionsgate’s relationship comedy Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl took in around $14.3 million to edge out Universal’s true-life espionage thriller, Breach for the No. 5 spot. Despite critical acclaim, Breach only managed an estimated $12.3 million over the four-day holiday frame.