More than a 'Ghost' of a chance

Cage pic fires up 4-day frame, but other newcomers give chase

Between Valentine's Day and the Presidents Day holiday weekend, Hollywood is throwing a lot of product at moviegoers with the hope that something will stick. The studios might have gotten it right this time, scheduling five new wide releases that target five different audiences. Some are so bullish on the frame that there is talk of shattering Presidents Day weekend numbers.

Sony Pictures bows the Nicolas Cage starrer "Ghost Rider" in 3,619 theaters. The long-gestating film from writer-director Mark Steven Johnson ("Daredevil") sees yet another Marvel Comics character adapted for the big screen. Regardless of Cage's recent cold streak with such films as "The Weather Man" and "The Wicker Man," this film is set for a huge opening along the lines of "Daredevil," which opened to $45 million during the 2003 Presidents Day weekend.

In "Ghost," Cage stars as a former motorcycle stuntman who, in order to secure the safety of his true love (Eva Mendes), makes a deal with the devil. Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott and Peter Fonda co-star in the PG-13 film from Marvel and Crystal Sky Pictures.

It's possible that three of the other new wide releases could edge into the $20 million range for the four-day frame. Bringing much-needed family product to the marketplace is Buena Vista Pictures' "Bridge to Terabithia" from Walden Media. Directed by Gabor Csupo (writer-producer of "The Rugrats Movie" and "The Wild Thornberries Movie"), "Terabithia" is based on the 1978 Newbery Award-winning children's book from Katherine Paterson. The PG film stars Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb as friends who create an imaginary land to escape their problems. Zooey Deschanel also stars in this story, which was required reading for many growing up in the 1980s.

The movie looks like it will open in the $16 million-$19 million range for the four days, but with strong word-of-mouth ex-pected, it could get a bump Monday, which could put it in the $20 million-plus category.

The weekend's other potential $20 million earners opened Wednesday to capitalize on Valentine's Day.

Warner Bros. Pictures bowed its romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics" in 2,929 theaters to $4.1 million, good for a per-screen average of $1,417. The PG-13 film stars Hugh Grant as a washed-up '80s pop star who must come up with a hit song in a matter of days and turns to his plant lady (Drew Barrymore) for help. The film co-stars Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston and is written and directed by Marc Lawrence ("Miss Congeniality"). "Music," attracting primarily females, is likely to gross in the high-teen millions for the frame but could edge into $20 million territory.

Lionsgate is expected to continue its Tyler Perry hot streak after it bowed "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" on Wednesday to $4.5 million. Opening in 2,111 theaters, the film boasted a strong midweek per-screen average of $2,249. "Daddy" marks the writer-director-producer's first feature that doesn't star the actor; the PG-13 film features Gabrielle Union as a successful attorney who falls for blue collar single father Idris Elba. "Daddy" should gross $20 million for the four-day frame.

Universal Pictures' "Breach" is not expected to bow to the numbers of the other new films. The adult drama, which launches in 1,488 theaters, comes from director Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass") and features a well-pedigreed cast that includes Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney. The film tells the true story of a Russian mole within the CIA (Cooper).

"Breach" was produced by Intermedia and co-financed with Sidney Kimmel. Drawing a relatively older audience, the film is looking to bow in the $7 million-$9 million range, with hopes that it will hold well during the next couple of weeks.
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