‘Rider’ falls to third, behind ‘Zodiac’ bow

Disney’s midlife-crisis motorcycle movie “Wild Hogs” aced the No. 1 spot at the B.O. over the weekend, handily taking in $38 million off 3,287 engagements.

Meanwhile, Oscar wins last weekend gave bumps to some winners, but also-rans had a hard time converting the awards attention into B.O. gold.

One motorcycle pic replaced another at No. 1: “Ghost Rider,” which dropped 43%, moved down to No. 3. Pic has cumed $94.7 million in three weekends of release for Sony.

“Hogs” — starring John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy — is the latest Hollywood pic to be drubbed by crix but wind up at No. 1 with socko numbers that defy tracking estimates.

DreamWorks’ “Norbit” and Sony’s “Ghost Rider” also received less-than-favorable reviews but are closing in $100 million at the box office.

Paramount’s well-reviewed “Zodiac,” meantime, bowed at No. 2 with $13.1 million. Pic played to a per-screen average of $5,546 off 2,362. Warner Bros. partnered on the pic and has international rights.

Par brass said the pic’s two-and-a-half hour running time was expected to impact its opening weekend tally. Latest pic by helmer David Fincher opened in line with his 1995 serial killer pic “Seven,” which bowed at $13.9 million. His biggest bow ever came with 2002’s “Panic Room,” which landed more than $30 million in its debut.

The “Hogs” debut was somewhat surprisingly, marking Travolta’s biggest opening ever , following his 2005 pic “Be Cool,” which bowed to $23.4 million for MGM. Pic is also Allen’s biggest ever live-action debut.

Frame’s other new wide opener, Paramount Vantage’s racy “Black Snake Moan,” debuted at No. 8. Pic — starring Samuel L. Jackson as a bluesman who uses extreme methods to reform a Southern nympho (Christina Ricci) — locked up just over $4 million off 1,252.

Pic scored a per-location average of $3,208, and was off from helmer Craig Brewer’s previous pic “Hustle & Flow,” which bowed to $8 million in 2005 for Par’s specialty unit. “Hustle” bowed in some 200 fewer theaters than “Moan.”

“Hogs” helped gun overall box office: The top 10 pics combined for $100.8 million, up from $96 million a week ago and $77.5 million a year ago.

“Hogs” was the third biggest March opening ever, and Mouse House distribution topper Chuck Viane said the pic worked because it brought in four distinct fan bases repping each of the ensemble’s players.

Serious pics have been failing to bring in auds en masse to the movies lately. It’s Hollywood’s broad comedies and f/x spectacles that are clicking best in 2007.

Among holdovers, Disney and Walden’s kids fantasy “Bridge to Terabithia” dropped 40% in its third frame, taking in $8.6 million off 2,718. Pic has flown to $57.9 million to date.

New Line’s Jim Carrey starrer “The Number 23,” which features the funnyman in a serious role, added $7.1 million to its take. Cume stands at $24.7 million for the pic, which was budgeted at around $30 million, less than a typical Carrey vehicle.

Biz on “23” dropped 52%, and crix have been generally unkind to the noirish thriller.

Eddie Murphy-starrer “Norbit” –distribbed by Paramount for DreamWorks — continued to stay strong. Comedy dropped just 34% in ticket sales and has cumed nearly $83 million in one month of release. Pic should easily surpass Murphy’s other current release, “Dreamgirls,” for which he was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar.

Warners’ romantic comedy “Music & Lyrics,” played to almost $5 million over the frame. Pic, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, dropped just 36% and has cumed $38.7 million in three weekends.

Studio’s “The Astronaut Farmer,” however, slid badly — and out of the top 10 altogether — in its second frame. PG-13 pic from the Polish brothers fell 52% after a soft opening last frame. Billy Bob Thornton starrer launched a per-theater average of just $997 in its second frame, off 2,155. Pic has cumed $7.7 million to date.

Another pic that saw a steep drop in biz was the Fox comedy “Reno 911: Miami,” a bigscreen adaptation of the Comedy Central skein. Pic shot down $3.8 million in its second frame, skidding a steep 63% off its opening.

Pic has played to $16.4 million to date. Latest per-theater average, off 2,702, was an anemic $1,388.

But hanging tough in the top 10 was Universal’s spy thriller “Breach.” Pic, in its third frame, took in $3.5 million off just under 1,500 theaters. Cume has hit $25.4 million.

New limited releases had trouble vs. the big guns.

New Line’s limited rollout “Full of It,” the teen comedy, roped in $13,000 off 15 theaters.

MGM’s “Two Weeks” landed in 12 theaters for $24,000 and a per-location average of $2,000. Family drama stars Sally Field and Ben Chapman.

Oscar bumps

Fox Searchlight’s “Last King of Scotland,” for which Forest Whitaker won a best actor Oscar, benefited, rising 24%. It reined in $975,000 off 517, and has cumed $16.7 million to date.

But that pic is one of the few Oscar winners to continue expanding.While Searchlight added 183 runs over the frame to “King’s” tally, other Oscar faves — from “Dreamgirls” to “Pan’s Labyrinth” — significantly ratcheted down their runs.

Warners’ Clint Eastwood-helmed war epic “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which lost out in the best picture race to Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” dropped a sharp 66% . Subtitled pic has cumed $13.3 million to date. It is still playing 285 locations, after dropping 245 theaters in its most recent frame.

Miramax’s “The Queen” lost 17% in ticket sales, and also dropped 117 theaters to a total of 545. Pic has cumed $54.2 million after 23 weeks in release.

Rest of the best pic nominees, including “The Departed,” “Babel” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” have already entered their DVD releases.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Lives of Others,” which won the statuette in Oscar’s foreign-language race, translated $807,599 off 122 over the weekend. Pic held a healthy per-screen average of $7,211 and has cumed $2.3 million after a month of release.

Though comedy has been working well lately, “Hogs” should get a run for its money next weekend when Warner Bros.’ bloody graphic novel adaptation “300” opens. Pic has been tracking well with young males and fanboys.

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