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'Ghost Rider' Could Top Box Office With 'Spirit Of Vengeance'


With Nicolas Cage back for another go, "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" will be looking to scoop up the action-seeking audience this weekend, but it won't be easy with a variety of other overlapping choices for the target demographic. Action-comedy "This Means War" is another title getting a wide release, with Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine starring, but it might also have a difficult time due to major competition from "The Vow." Hayao Miyazaki's "The Secret World of Arrietty" is also getting its English-version release this week in the U.S. and should play well with its niche audience, but that won't be enough for it to make much of an impact at just 1,300 total theaters.

Getting launched at roughly 3,000 venues this weekend, "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is hitting about 600 theaters less than the original, suggesting that Sony isn't very confident in a big opening weekend. "Ghost Rider" hauled in a solid $45 million in its opening weekend back in February of 2007, though audiences bailed fast and "Ghost Rider" ended up with a domestic total of just $115 million. "Ghost Rider" did play well enough overseas to push its worldwide total to $228 million, but that total was still only barely enough to get a sequel off the ground.

But even though Sony scaled back the distribution of "Spirit of Vengeance," it still is a major release during a part of the box office schedule that usually has a lack of big-budget action movies. Some of its intended audience might check out "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D" or "Safe House," but "Ghost Rider" should still be able to push its way to the top of the box office. Look for "Spirit of Vengeance" to dip from the $45 million opening of the 2007 "Ghost Rider" and finish somewhere around $30 to $35 million this weekend.

Aiming mostly at a different demographic will be "This Means War," a PG-13 release that is as much a romantic comedy as it is an action movie. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, "This Means War" takes aim at date audiences that didn't get a chance to celebrate Valentine's Day this past Tuesday, which should help it at least get off the ground. The downside is that "The Vow" hit big with its target demographic a week ago and is in line to swipe a sizeable chunk of the potential audience. Due to the popularity of the cast, "This Means War" should earn somewhere around $17 to $19 million, though that isn't likely to be enough to finish as the top box office draw this weekend.

Following an enormous $41 million opening, "The Vow" looks like it has plenty of audience left for another fairly big weekend. Though "This Means War" will provide some major competition, "The Vow" is clearly resonating very well with its target demographic and it should be able to finish the weekend with a very impressive 10-day total around $80 million. With "The Vow" carrying a modest production budget of just $30 million, it should end up as one of the most lucrative releases of the winter, if not the entire year, by the time it's out of theaters.

As "The Vow" and "This Means War" fight for date audiences, animated film "The Secret Life of Arrietty" will be hoping to find its niche, art house audience. From master animator Hayao Miyazaki, the maker of groundbreaking animated films "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke," "The Secret World of Arrietty" is getting the expected rave reviews, though that probably won't be enough for it to crossover to American audiences. After Miyazaki's "Ponyo" earned just $15 million in the U.S. in 2009, "Arrietty" is likely in line for an opening in the $4 to $6 million range with its limited, 1,300-theater release.

Next weekend, "Tyler Perry's Good Deeds" will be one of the biggest releases of the weekend followed by comedy "Wanderlust," starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. Thriller "Gone," starring Amanda Seyfried, will also be hitting theaters as will "Act of Valor," an R-rated action movie starring real life Navy SEALs.

RTT Box Office Predictions for 2/17/12 - 2/19/12 (In Millions):

1. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sony): $34

2. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems): $20

3. This Means War (Fox): $19

4. Safe House (Universal): $17

5. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers): $14

6. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D (Fox): $11.5

7. Chronicle (Fox): $6.5

8. The Woman in Black (CBS Films): $5.2

9. The Secret World of Arrietty (Buena Vista): $4.8

10. The Grey (Open Road Films): $2.9

by RTTNews Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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