'Norbit' Out-Grosses 'Hannibal'

by Brandon Gray
Eddie Murphy in Norbit
February 12, 2007

Norbit consumed far more moviegoers than Hannibal Rising over the weekend as fat suit comedy once again made for a box office banquet.

Eddie Murphy's $60 million DreamWorks comedy feasted on $34.2 million on around 4,000 screens at 3,136 theaters, representing Murphy's first star vehicle to open to over $30 million since The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps in 2000. Distributor Paramount claimed they expected Norbit to start in the low $20 million range based on tracking polls.

Fat suit comedy has had a steady diet of box office success, and movies that use it as a marketing element have debuted to over $27 million on average in recent years. Around this time in 2006, Big Momma's House 2 and Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion opened to $27.7 and $30 million respectively, and it was no stretch to expect a fat suit comedy starring Eddie Murphy to do better.

Despite Norbit, overall business was off from 2006 for the fourth weekend in a row, down seven percent from the same frame last year when The Pink Panther and Final Destination 3 led.

Hannibal Rising fell precipitously from its predecessors. MGM and The Weinstein Company's cannibal prequel bit into $13.1 million on around 3,600 screens at 3,003 venues, or a fraction of Red Dragon's $36.5 million start and Hannibal's $58 million.

Gasper Ulliel in Hannibal Rising
Red Dragon, which was the Hannibal Lecter franchise's first step down, was a prequel like Hannibal Rising, but it, unlike Rising, at least had Anthony Hopkins reprising the role he made famous. Prequels can be difficult to pull off because they don't advance the story, effectively functioning as unnecessary exposition. Few were begging to know the origin of Hannibal—his mystery was part of the horror—and revealing him driven to madness by something as pedestrian as revenge further deflated the character.

Among holdovers, Night at the Museum was again the highlight. In its eighth weekend of release, the family comedy was off ten percent to $5.8 million, lifting its total to $232.2 million.

Last weekend's top draw, The Messengers, plummeted 51 percent to $7.2 million, and the movie that opened under it, Because I Said So, pulled ahead with $9.2 million, down 30 percent. The respective tallies are $24.7 million and $25.8 million in ten days.

Meanwhile, the Academy Award-nominated pictures generally had minimal drop-offs, maintaining the same low levels as last weekend. Underrated among this bunch is Blood Diamond. After a soft $8.6 million opening last December, it's hung around despite severe theater losses and its total inched past $55 million, which is higher than the movie that nearly doubled its debut on the same weekend, Apocalypto.

• 2/13/06 - 'Pink Panther' Slinks Past 'Destination' (Same Weekend, 2006)
• 2/14/05 - 'Hitch' Scores Romantic Comedy Record (Same Weekend, 2005)

Weekend Box Office Results
All Time February Openings
Fat Suit Comedies
Serial Killer Thrillers
Oscar Nominees and Their Grosses

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Feb. 11 and was revised on Monday, Feb. 12 with actual grosses.

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