LOS ANGELES -- Eddie Murphy and the Klump clan feasted at the box office this weekend.
Murphy and his multiple roles in "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" lifted the comedy sequel to a No. 1 debut with $42.7 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was Murphy's best-ever opening, topping the $33 million for "Beverly Hills Cop 2" over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in 1987 and the $29 million three-day gross for "Dr. Dolittle" in 1998. The sequel also beat the $25.4 million opening weekend for "The Nutty Professor" in 1996.
Murphy reprises his roles as portly, brilliant Sherman Klump and his lowbrow family, along with Sherman's obnoxious alter-ego Buddy Love.
The weekend's other widely distributed debut movie, "Thomas and the Magic Railroad," had a modest opening of $4.2 million, bringing its total since premiering Wednesday to $6.6 million.
The family movie, based on the children's books and a series of short TV films, combines animated talking trains and a live cast that includes Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda. The film averaged $1,994 a theater playing in 2,106 cinemas, compared with "Nutty Professor's" $13,167 average in 3,243 locations.
Opening at six theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, the French film "Girl on the Bridge" debuted strongly with $70,000 for an $11,667 average. The movie stars Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteuil in an odd romance about a luckless performer who rescues a woman from suicide and puts her in his knife-throwing act.
"Nutty Professor II" received mixed to poor reviews. Critics praised Murphy's performances and the technical skill that allowed his Klump characters to interact, but many reviewers found the movie rambling and overly gross.
"With certain films, PG-13 comedies especially, you're never going to please reviewers," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, which released the movie. "But let's face it, audiences love this stuff. They want to be entertained, and Eddie Murphy does it the best."
The overall gross for this weekend's top 12 movies was $117.6 million, down 15.5 percent from the same period last year. That puts Hollywood just a fraction ahead of last summer, when movies grossed a record $3 billion, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie-ticket sales.
Considering last year's late-summer surprises "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth Sense," which opened a year ago next weekend, Hollywood will have a tough time staying on record pace, Dergarabedian said. Those two movies alone accounted for 10 percent of the summer 1999 box office.
"There's almost no way you can compete with a 'Blair Witch' and 'Sixth Sense' phenomenon like you had last year," Dergarabedian said.
The worse news for Hollywood is that average ticket prices undoubtedly have risen again this year, meaning actual movie attendance this summer is down slightly, Dergarabedian said.
Last weekend's top film, the ghost story "What Lies Beneath," held strongly in second place with $22 million, down just 26 percent from its debut. The movie has grossed $68.5 million in 10 days.
But "Pokemon the Movie 2000" skidded 68 percent in its second weekend to $6.3 million, and "X-men" dropped 51 percent to $11.5 million over its third weekend. "X-men," which has grossed $121.8 million, hit $100 million early last week, while "The Patriot" this weekend became the ninth movie released in 2000 to hit that mark, pushing its total to $101.4 million.
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