Nicolas Cage's comic book adaptation Ghost Rider zoomed into theaters and came out a big winner, scoring the best Presidents Day weekend opening ever with $44.5 million from Friday to Sunday, according to early estimates (final numbers for the four-day holiday period will be available on Tuesday). Fueled by an audience that was nearly two-thirds male, the Marvel-based flick averaged a hefty $12,296 per theater and gave Cage the No. 1 premiere of his career, beating National Treasure's $35.1 mil bow. What's more, Ghost Rider's debut figure ranks among those of the top-earning superhero movies (it's on par with Batman Returns' $45.7 mil), and it helped boost overall grosses, making this the first ''up'' weekend of 2007.
All of which, as it happens, was pretty much expected. (Indeed back-pat time! EW.com's box office savant predicted it.)
More of a surprise, however, was the super-strong $22.1 mil debut of the weekend's No. 2 film, Bridge to Terabithia. Buoyed by a very good A- CinemaScore from audiences that were, also surprisingly, nearly evenly divided between males and females and young and old people, the movie's debut exceeded those of recent family flicks like Flicka ($7.7 mil), Charlotte's Web ($11.5 mil), Curious George ($14.7 mil), and the last Presidents Day champ, Eight Below ($20.2 mil).
With those fantasy films riding in front, plenty of real-world-set fare lined up behind. Norbit (No. 3) dropped 51 percent to earn $16.8 mil, while the romantic comedies Music and Lyrics (No. 4 with $14 mil) and Tyler Perry's Daddys Little Girls (No. 5 with $12.1 mil) fared worse than their strong Valentine's Day bows suggested they would. Oh well.
Then again, the well-reviewed spy thriller Breach (No. 6) performed better than expected, bringing in $10.4 mil in just 1,489 locations. Credit its B+ CinemaScore from a crowd that was whoa! 87 percent over age 25. Also key: strong reviews (Breach scored a 74 out of 100 on Metacritic.com), including a rave from Larry King, who, let me tell you, knows a good movie when he sees it.
Anyway, have a happy rest-of-the-holiday-weekend, everyone!