By David Mumpower
February 15, 2007
Valentine's Day isn't even 24 hours in the past, yet we are already looking forward to the next major holiday, President's Day. Hollywood has decided that after six weeks of playing it safe, they are ready to release a ton of new products into the marketplace. The expected result is one of the strongest February weekends ever, with a comic book adaptation almost certain to claim victory despite stiff competition.
Ghost Rider is the 800 pound gorilla over the four-day holiday. North American audiences, perhaps seeking to remove all doubt about their shaky movie tastes, are showing strong interest in this Nicolas Cage/Eva Mendes action/drama. For those of you who have never picked up a comic book in your life, this is the tale of a biker/stuntman named Johnny Blaze who makes a deal with the devil (literally) to give up his soul in exchange for a favor. Once that task is completed, Blaze becomes a creature of the night, a flaming skull-headed biker capable of shooting hellfire out of his fingers. Mendes plays the love interest in the movie who presumably is not interested in letting Blaze get to third base with her.
Ghost Rider has been a rumored project that pre-dates even the existence of BOP. In fact, Cage announced his interest in the project the week before our site made its debut. Given that almost six years have passed, it is clear that getting Ghost Rider into production was no easy feat. Real progress was finally made when Daredevil helmer Mark Steven Jackson was brought on board to write and direct. Even then, almost two years passed before the first footage was shot. Clearly, there are difficulties in making a realistic re-creation of such visually unique character. The lack of archetypal villains in the superhero's rogues gallery was also problematic. Eventually, the studio settled upon American Beauty's Wes Bentley to portray the big bad and Ghost Rider finally became a reality.
Clearly, the project has struck a chord with consumers despite the fact that very little happens in the trailer. A Super Bowl pre-game airing of the commercial created a ton of water cooler chatter, causing tracking data to spike. At least one service believes the project is capable of earning $50 million in four days. I am not quite as optimistic, though after Norbit's remarkable success, nothing shocks me these days. Look for around $42 million over the President's Day holiday weekend.
Men who like to dress up as women by using fat suits and heavily caked on make-up is not the topic of the next Maury Povich. Well, it might be but that is not my point. This is the weirdest box office phenomenon of the 2000s. We have (unfortunately) seen Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence perform this schtick in recent years and the President's Day weekend affords Tyler Perry another opportunity to cross dress to achieve success. Oh wait, he's not doing that this time? Err, never mind. It's probably for the best. Dueling fat suit movies might prove too confusing for North American audiences.
The almost completely unknown playwright introduced himself to North American audiences with Diary of a Mad Black Woman, though he had already built up a significant bit of buzz with a play of Woman, Thou Are Loosed. The project became a movie later that year despite the fact that Perry passed on working on it in order to focus on writing Diary of a Mad Black Woman. This proved to be a brilliant decision as Diary debuted to a jaw-dropping $21.9 million two years ago this month. Perry followed this success with an even more impressive follow-up. Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion opened to $30.0 million on its way to $63.2 million. To this day, our staff giggles a bit about the frenetic missive we received from our friends at Lionsgate, begging us to change the movie's name in order to reflect Perry's drawing power. I won't pretend to know whether this was a power on Perry's part or simply savvy marketing on the part of the distributor. What I can say with confidence is that it worked.