The biker buddy comedy “Wild Hogs” and its ensemble cast of John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and Tim Allen was the weekend box office champ with a $38 million take, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was Walt Disney Co.’s biggest March opening ever. It was also the largest-ever debut for the 53-year-old Travolta as well as the best non-animated movie debut for Allen, who is also 53. Macy turns 57 next week and Lawrence turns 42 next month.
“It’s so easy to see in the material how much fun they were having together. The audience was looking for that first great comedy of the year,” said Disney president of distribution Chuck Viane.
“Wild Hogs” performed well beyond expectations, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. It had been expected to be No. 1 with earnings in the $25 million range, he said.
“It’s just astonishing,” Dergarabedian said. “It was the perfect vehicle for these four stars. A combination of star power, great concept and great marketing was responsible.
“This is not an Oscar contender, but it’s a fun time at the movies. You know, sometimes it’s just about escapism.”
No other films were even close.
The No. 2 movie was the thriller “Zodiac,” which debuted with $13.1 million. “Ghost Rider” fell to No. 3 in its third week of release with $11.5 million, “Bridge to Terabithia” was fourth with $8.6 million, and “The Number 23” dropped to fifth with $7.1 million in its second week.
Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit” continued to draw crowds, placing sixth in its fourth week of release with a $6.4 million take that boosted its cumulative tally to $83 million.
“Music & Lyrics” was No. 7 with $4.9 million and the new movie “Black Snake Moan,” about an aging black man who chains a young white woman to a radiator to cure her of her demons, only took in $4 million for eighth place.
Rounding out the Top 10 was ninth place “Reno 911!: Miami” with $3.8 million and “Breach” with $3.5 million.
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.