'Ghost' ablaze with $52 million


It was a record-breaking weekend at the North American boxoffice this Presidents Day holiday weekend as Sony Pictures' "Ghost Rider" and Buena Vista Pictures' "Bridge to Terabithia" exceeded expectations with grosses of $52 million and $28 million, respectively, for the four-day frame.

The other new wide releases also performed solidly during the weekend. Warner Bros. Pictures bowed "Music and Lyrics" to $15.9 million for the four days, "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" from Lionsgate opened at $13 million, and Universal Pictures' "Breach" grossed $12.2 million.

In fact, with five wide releases targeting five different audience groups, the boxoffice shattered the Presidents Day weekend record, beating 2003 by 17%. That year's frame was led by the opening of 20th Century Fox's "Daredevil." With overall grosses of $193 million, the weekend surpassed last year by an impressive 23%, pushing the year-to-date grosses up 1% compared with 2006.

Of the five new releases, "Terabithia" and "Daddy's Little Girls" were the best received by audiences. "Terabithia," a Walt Disney Co. co-production with Walden Media, received an A- from audiences, according to exit pollster CinemaScore. Based on the 1978 Newbery Award-winning children's book from Katherine Paterson, the PG film, attended primarily by families, was beloved by the younger-than-25 and older-than-50 crowd. Directed by Gabor Csupo, the low-budget fantasy film generated an impressive per-theater average of $9,091.

"Daddy" also earned an A- from the polling company. The first Perry film that didn't feature the multihyphenate in a lead role still resonated positively with moviegoers. Attended primarily by women, the film received top marks from all ages of audiences, with the 25-34 crowd rating it the highest. Most audience members attended the romantic comedy for its subject matter and Perry's association with the film, which he wrote, produced and directed. Bowing in 2,111 theaters, the PG-13 film generated a per-theater average of $6,158. The film's seven-day gross -- it opened on Valentine's Day -- now stands at $18.7 million. But without Perry in the film, "Daddy" was far below his previous openings. The gross also might have been hit by the strong hold of Paramount's "Norbit," which fell 42% off its opening bow.

Universal's "Breach," starring Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney, scored a B+ with audiences. Targeting primarily the older crowd, the PG-13 film from director Billy Ray was attended about equally by men and women who were interested in the subject matter of a Russian mole inside the CIA. The older than-25 crowd attended the movie in greater numbers, but those younger than 25 gave it a higher grade. Bowing in 1,489 theaters -- the fewest of the new wide releases -- "Breach" generated a per-theater average of $8,193.

Sony's "Ghost" and Warners' "Music" received B scores from CinemaScore. "Ghost," as expected, was attended primarily by males older than 25. From director Mark Steven Johnson, the PG-13 film starring Nicolas Cage lured audiences primarily for its subject matter. Cage as the lead was of secondary importance. Bowing in 3,619 theaters, the movie generated an astounding per-theater average of $14,368.

"Music" proved to be an effective star vehicle for Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Both were large draws for the romantic comedy from director Marc Lawrence. Attended primarily by women, the film was best liked by the younger-than-25 crowd but most attended by the older-than-25 crowd. The romantic comedy genre also was a popular attraction this Valentine's Day period. The film, which bowed on Feb. 14, has grossed $21 million in its six days in theaters.