Box Office Preview

Motors Running

''Wild Hogs'' should pig out at No. 1, cruising past ''Zodiac'' (No. 2) and ''Ghost Rider'' (No. 3)

Wild Hogs
Wild Hogs

Now that the silly season is behind us, it's time to turn our attention back to movies... that will never contend for the Academy Awards! (Hey, friends, it's March, whaddya expect?) Still, this weekend's three major new releases — Wild Hogs, Zodiac, and Black Snake Moanwill contend for box-office domination. And you can expect the star-studded family comedy Wild Hogs to take first place by a wide margin.

You can also expect the star vehicles Norbit and The Number 23 to fall out of the top five. Just as Eddie Murphy was shown no love at the Oscars, his latest film is starting to get the cold shoulder in theaters (though it has earned more than $75 million in three-plus weeks of release). And while Jim Carrey's thriller earned around a million bucks a day throughout the week, it will drop 50 percent to a $7 mil, sixth-place finish. Oh well. So goes life in Hollywood.

But, hey, that's just what I think — last week, I got it wrong when I predicted that The Number 23 would beat out Ghost Rider, as did, ahem, 54 percent of you. My chance to set things right is in the following column; yours is in the poll below.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Wild Hogs
Touchstone · PG-13 · 3,287 theaters · NEW
John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy star in this comedy about a group of aging suburban pals who hit the road on their Harleys. The cast (which also includes Marisa Tomei, Ray Liotta, and John C. McGinley) is impressive. Although, let's be honest: It would have been more impressive in 1997. Truly, it's been a while since Travolta or Allen has had a hit (Travolta's last one, The General's Daughter, came nearly eight years ago, while Allen's The Santa Clause 2 struck it big in 2002), and Lawrence's box-office track record is all over the place. Nevertheless, direct competition is minimal, awareness is high (thanks to a lot of marketing and promotion, including that big Super Bowl ad), and the big names all but guarantee Wild Hogs a bow north of $20 mil. But not too far north.
Weekend prediction: $22 million

Zodiac
Paramount · R · 2,362 theaters · NEW
A David Fincher movie is always an event, and this one — which traces the rampage of the Zodiac Killer in Northern California in the late-1960s — should fall in line with the openings of Seven ($13.9 mil), The Game ($14.3 mil), and Fight Club ($11 mil). In fact, considering the recent strong debuts for the R-rated Smokin' Aces and the fact-based Breach, it'll probably do a bit better.
Weekend prediction: $15 million

Ghost Rider
Columbia · PG-13 · 3,608 theaters · 3rd weekend
Nic Cage and company keep on truckin' — er, ridin'. But with a new motorcycle movie in multiplexes, Ghost Rider will fall out of first. The Marvel adaptation has brought in more than $80 mil in two weeks, so even a 50 percent decline still means a hefty take.
Weekend prediction: $10 million

Bridge to Terabithia
Disney · PG · 3,159 theaters · 3rd weekend
Sometimes these kid-friendly flicks catch a wave and, with little else around to amuse the wee ones, big bucks can result. Thus, the literary adaptation should continue to hold strong, falling another 35 percent, to bring its total close to $60 mil.
Weekend prediction: $9 million

Black Snake Moan
Paramount Vantage · R · 1,252 theaters · NEW
With the Star Wars prequels, The Incredibles, and a number of other blockbusters under his belt, Samuel L. Jackson has a higher cumulative lifetime gross than just about anybody else. But as a solo star, he's proven to be a moderate draw at best (Coach Carter debuted with $24.2 mil, but Snakes on a Plane crashed on its first weekend, with $13.8 mil). So, opening on a relatively few number of screens, this drama — in which Jackson plays a blues musician who chains up Christina Ricci to cure her of her nymphomania (no, really) — should fare about as well as director Craig Brewer's last raw Southern fable, Hustle & Flow. Which isn't great.
Weekend prediction: $8 million

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Originally posted Mar 01, 2007
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