i>GHOST RIDER FIRES UP BOX OFFICE

Thumbing its nose at film critics, Ghost Rider blazed into more than 3,600 theaters over the four-day President's Day weekend and set a record for the holiday. The Nicolas Cage-starring film based on the Marvel comics superhero, which received overwhelmingly negative reviews on Friday, took in $51.5 million, well above the previous record for the holiday -- $45.1 million for 2004's 50 First Dates. Other new releases also performed strongly, especially Disney's Bridge to Terabithia, which placed second with $29 million over the four days. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy Music & Lyrics, which opened on Valentine's Day, scored with $16 million to bring its total for six days to $21.6 million. The opening of Lionsgate's Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls collected $14.3 million. The movie, which also bowed on Valentine's Day, has now earned $20 million. Universal's Breach, the best-reviewed movie of the lot, opened in sixth place with $12.3 million. Among holdovers, Norbit, starring Edie Murphy, held up well in its second week, slipping from first to third place with $20.7 million. "It has turned out to be a sensational weekend for the business, and that's fabulous news for everybody," Disney's distribution chief Chuck Viane told the Los Angeles Daily News. "When all kinds of movies are seen, that helps the entire business." Added Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers: "Either by design or by accident, this was the perfect mix of films ... Each movie targeted a different audience, which allowed each to do well and culminated in this giant weekend."

VIACOM TAKETH, NOW GIVETH

Viacom, which ordered that all of the clips from its cable networks be pulled off YouTube two weeks ago, will allow them to return to a new video website, Joost, the Wall Street Journal reported today, saying that the deal is likely to be announced today (Tuesday). Under it, Viacom has agreed to license hundreds of hours of programming from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, Spike, and its other cable networks as well as movies made by Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures. Monetary terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the WSJ observed that in the past Viacom has received two-thirds of the advertising revenue and other compensation for such content. In an interview with the newspaper, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman indicated that the deal is non-exclusive and is meant to assure any other "potential partners that we're open for business and that we're able to enter into transactions with companies that respect our content and the considerations of our business."

MINNESOTA FILM BOARD MARKETS STATE ON WEB TO HOLLYWOOD

The state of Minnesota has developed a website to promote itself to Hollywood. The website, http://www.mnfilmtv.org, created for the Minnesota Film & TV Board (MFTVB) by the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, is the first by a film commission to offer video aimed at aiding location scouts, promote local talent, and showcase scenes of movies shot in the state. The college's Pam Arnold said in a statement, "There is a stereotype that it's all frozen tundra and dairy farms here. The new site showcases the state's architectural, geographic and cultural diversity. Full color photography -- and lots of it -- throws a wrench into the stereotype." Lucinda Winter, executive director of the MFTVB, said the website will also describe the "combination of incentives and production services" that the state offers to attract film and TV producers.

Brian B.