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Is Nicolas Cage America’s Sweetheart?

Well, one thing is certain: it sure as hell ain't Julia Roberts! After a mountain of hype about her big-screen comeback, Duplicity underperformed at the box office this weekend, selling some $14 million worth of tickets to an audience that skewed old (78 percent were over 30) and female (61 percent). Meanwhile, Nicolas Cage and his latest film, Knowing, managed to survive an endless parade of critical barbs en route to a first-place finish at the box office. And seeing how four out of the last five movies Nic Cage has starred in have opened at No. 1,* we think it's high time that Cage gets himself fitted for a tiara.

So, what is it exactly that Nic Cage is doing right these days? Basically, it boils down to two things: He's keeping himself top of mind (nine films of his have been released in the last three years) and he understands his audience. You see, after making some bad decisions in the early aughts (think Captain Corelli's Mandolin, think Windtalkers) that were largely driven by his insistence to work solely on "prestige" pictures, it appears that he came to the realization that he could become a very successful sci-fi-action genre actor and, in the process, start a brand-new chapter in his nearly 30-year acting career. And what do you know? Whether he was making a film about the end of the world (Knowing) or about the end of the world (Next), audiences have clearly been responding to the career decisions he has been making of late (even if critics haven't). And for that, you can't help but applaud the actor who, like him or not, understands why people like him.

*Besides Knowing, the list includes Bangkok Dangerous, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Ghost Rider. Only Next, which was bested by Shia LaBeouf in Disturbia, failed to open at No. 1.

Weekend Report: ‘Knowing’ Digs Up the Digits [Box Office Mojo]