"Ghost Rider," Sony's comic-book adaptation starring Nicolas Cage as a motorcycle stunt driver moonlighting as a collector of evil souls for the devil, debuted as the top weekend movie in the U.S., according to studio estimates.
The movie took in $44.5 million (EUR 33.92 million), according the estimates released Sunday.
Debuting in second place with $22.1 million (EUR 16.85 million) was Disney's "Bridge to Terabithia," based on the children's novel about a boy and girl who create an elaborate fantasy land to escape from the troubles of the real world.
The movies bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 flick, DreamWorks' Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit," which slipped to third place with $16.8 million (EUR 12.81 million), lifting its total to $58.9 million (EUR 44.9 million).
Premiering at No. 4 with $14 million (EUR 10.67 million) was the Warner Bros. romance "Music and Lyrics," starring Hugh Grant as a washed-up pop singer and Drew Barrymore as his unlikely songwriting partner.
The Lionsgate romance "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" opened in fifth place with $12.1 million (EUR 9.22 million), a sharp drop from filmmaker Perry's February releases the last two years, 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion," which premiered with $30 million (EUR 22.87 million), and 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," which debuted with $21.9 million (EUR 16.69 million).
Universal's spy thriller "Breach" debuted at No. 6 with $10.4 million (EUR 7.93 million). It stars Chris Cooper as Robert Hanssen, the FBI man caught in 2001 for selling secrets to Russia, and Ryan Phillippe as a young bureau operative who helps bring him down.
Though trashed by critics, "Ghost Rider" helped pull Hollywood out of its box-office doldrums, with overall revenues rising for the first time in six weekends. The top 12 movies took in $141.4 million (EUR 107.78 million), up 28 percent from the same weekend last year.
"This is the weekend that could turn the tide and get us going in the right direction," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
Based on the Marvel Comic books, "Ghost Rider" delivered Hollywood's biggest opening so far this year, topping the $34.2 million (EUR 26.07 million) debut for "Norbit." "Ghost Rider" was the best opening weekend ever for Cage, beating the $35.1 million (EUr 26.76 million) debut of "National Treasure."
"Ghost Rider" also extended Hollywood's winning streak with comic-book adaptations, a genre some critics have said would eventually play itself out.
"I think as long as stories are being told in a way that audiences embrace them, you can go for a long, long, long, long time," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony.
Coming this summer are two big comic-book sequels, Sony's "Spider-Man 3" and 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Ghost Rider," $44.5 million (EUR 33.92 million).
2. "Bridge to Terabithia," $22.1 million (EUR 16.85 million).
3. "Norbit," $16.8 million (EUR 12.81 million).
4. "Music and Lyrics," $14 million (EUR 10.67 million).
5. "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls," $12.1 million (EUR 9.22 million).
6. "Breach," $10.4 million (EUR 7.93 million).
7. "Hannibal Rising," $5.5 million (EUR 4.19 million).
8. "Because I Said So," $5 million (EUR 3.81 million).
9. "The Messengers," $3.8 million (EUR 2.9 million).
10. "Night at the Museum," $3.7 million (EUR 2.82 million).