American audiences are usually pretty savvy about snuffing out movies that have been delayed for months and not screened for critics, but the lure of Nicolas Cage's flaming skull was just too powerful to resist. Continuing the can't-miss trend of comic-book movies—no matter how obscure or ill-regarded the hero—Ghost Rider galloped to a massive $44.5 million take at the box office, besting a crowded week of also-rans. Despite (or maybe because) of its deceptive Lord Of The Rings Jr. advertising campaign, the family film Bridge To Terabithia raked a solid $22 million for second place. The week's other new releases put in respectable showings as well: Music & Lyrics, the charming if inevitable pairing of romantic comedy veterans Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, came in fourth with $14 million; Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls ($12.1 million) did well enough without the presence of his Big Momma Madea character; and the intelligent thriller Breach ($10.4 million) drew the Top Ten's third highest per-screen-average on the strength of solid notices.

In heartening news, last week's champions Norbit and Hannibal Rising went into freefall in their second week, with each dropping over 50% from their opening weekend numbers.

More detailed numbers can be found at Box Office Mojo.

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