"Knowing" tops weekend box office

Sun Mar 22, 2009 5:05pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nicolas Cage proved again to be a self-fulfilling prophet of the megaplex as his latest big-screen thriller, "Knowing," topped the North American box office this weekend with an opening tally of $24.8 million, according to studio figures on Sunday.

The sci-fi adventure, starring Cage as an astrophysicist who decodes an encrypted prophecy of global doom and races to save the world from cataclysm, marked the fifth-biggest movie opening of his career and his ninth No. 1 film since 1997.

Besides underscoring Cage's enduring appeal as one of Hollywood's most bankable heroes, the film's end-of-the-world scenario seemed to offer an ideal antidote for moviegoers weary of gloomy economic news.

"In a doomsday scenario, dollars and cents don't really matter anymore, and I think that's really appealing to people," said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. "Who cares about mortgages anymore if the world's going to blow up?"

Cage clinched his biggest opening in 2007 with "Ghost Rider," which grossed $45.4 million its first weekend, followed by his two "National Treasure" adventures with $44.8 million and $35.1 million. Those three films went on to gross well over $500 million domestically alone.

"The audience has pretty much bought Nicolas Cage as a big movie star, and they like him in roles where he seems to be unraveling a mystery of some sort," said Richard Fay, head of domestic distribution for Summit.

Fay said the film also benefited from having opened when many college students are home on spring break, though exit polls showed moviegoers over age 25 accounted for 60 percent of its audience.

"Knowing," released by independent distributor Summit Entertainment, easily beat out two other movies opening in wide release -- the male-bonding comedy "I Love You, Man" from Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures' international spy thriller "Duplicity," co-starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.   Continued...

<p>Nicolas Cage poses for a portrait while promoting the film "Knowing" in New York March 8, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>