‘Ghost Rider’ sets box office ablaze

Comic adaptation takes in $44.5 million

NEW YORK – Sony’s Marvel comic adaptation “Ghost Rider” revved an estimated $44.5 million over the first three days of the extended President’s Day frame, easily taking No. 1 at the domestic B.O. and becoming the biggest opening of the year so far.

Studio was estimating Sunday morning that the pic could roll to $51 million over four days, which would make it the biggest President’s Day opening ever, surpassing Adam Sandler comedy “50 First Dates,” (which hit $45.1 million over four days in 2004).

The PG-13 “Ghost Rider” played 3,619 locations as the frame’s widest new release. Pic stars Nicolas Cage as supernatural cyclist Johnny Blaze, and numbers could conceivably spell a new franchise for the studio, though Sony brass wouldn’t comment on that possibility.

“Ghost” led a busy weekend with five new wide rollouts entering the fray.

Disney’s big-screen kid lit adaptation, meantime, “Bridge to Terabithia,” landed in second place over the three day frame, flying to $22 million off 3,319. Pic scored a plump per engagement average of $7,032 as the frame’s second widest new rollout.

In other new bows, Warner Bros.’ romantic comedy “Music & Lyrics” wrote up $14 million, off 2,929. Pic opened on Valentine’s Day to try and corral the date crowd: Cume stands at $19.5 million since its V-Day bow.

Lionsgate bowed Tyler Perry’s latest “Daddy’s Little Girls” to $12.1 million off 2,111. Pic played over three days to $5,732 per location.

Pic could advance in the charts depending on its Monday biz tomorrow.

Family comedy also bowed on Valentine’s Day and now has a cume of $17.8 million.

Universal’s spy thriller “Breach,” meantime, sneaked into sixth on the charts, drawing up an estimated $10.4 million over three days. Pic bowed in 1,489 theaters.

Any new releases, however, besides “Ghost” and “Terbithia,” couldn’t catch DreamWorks’ Eddie Murphy-starrer “Norbit”: Pic held well, managing to drop to the No. 3 spot in its second outing.

Pic took in another $16.8 million over the first three days of President’s Day weekend to raise its cume to $58.8 million.

Among recent openings in the specialty game, Sony Classics’ Oscar contender “The Lives of Others,” in its second frame, took in $366,128 off 32 screens for a healthy per screen average of $11,442.

After a strong couple of weeks in a handful of markets, MGM and the Weinstein Co.’s “Factory Girl” expanded by 318, but wasn’t able to keep up the socko per screen averages from its initial, more limited run. Sienna Miller starrer took in $506,000 for a per location average of $1,508. Cume stands at just under $899,000.

Four-day estimates for the President’s Day frame will be released come Monday morning, but “Ghost”‘s solid run as No. 1 for the weekend isn’t in doubt. Sony brass said that the pic’s success came because it played well across broad geographic demos, skewing slightly male.

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