norbit_posterbig.jpgBefore Dreamgirls, he hadn’t been seen on screen in a live action role since 2003 (The Haunting Mansion). So it was all the more surprising for Eddie Murphy to score an impressive opening to be heavyweight champ of the box office this weekend. His multicharacter Norbit, from Dreamworks / Paramount, raked in a whopping $33.7 mil this weekend from 3,136 theaters, and maybe as much as $34 mil. (Obviously, America hasn’t had its fill of Big Momma-type movies brought to the big screen starring Martin Lawrence or Tyler Perry. Who knew?) It was Eddie’s 14th No. 1 opening of his career, the biggest non-sequel Eddie Murphy opening weekend ever, and the biggest non-sequel DreamWorks opening ever. Clearly, it doesn’t matter whether those excruciatingly bad Norbit ads are hurting Eddie’s Oscar chances. Since he’s a first-dollar gross player, he laughed all the way to the bank with Friday’s take of $10.4 million, Saturday’s $14.8 mil, and Sunday’s estimated $8.9 mil. Friday weekend estimate of $32.5 mil since he’s a first-dollar gross player. Placing a distant 2nd was the critically panned The Weinstein Co. / MGM’s Hannibal Rising, looking at Lecter’s early life and based on the Thomas Harris basetseller, earning $4.7 mil Friday, $5 mil Saturday and an estimated $3 mil Sunday from 3,003 playdates for only a $12.7 mil weekend. (MGM’s figure was the higher $13.3 mil.) That’s far less than the high teens which MGM was expecting, and yet another Weinstein Co. film offering to disappoint at the box office. Holdover Because I Said So, Universal’s chick flick starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore, was 3rd, down only 31%, earning $2.7 mil Friday, $4.1 mil Saturday and an estimated $2.1 mil Sunday from 2,529 venues for a $9 mil weekend (cume to date $25.5 mil). Two weeks out, Screen Gems / Sony’s The Messengers grabbed 4th place and another $2.3 mil Friday, $3.2 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.7 mil Sunday from 2,529 theaters (-51%) with a weekend estimate of $7.2 mil (cume to date $24.7 mil). The rest of the Top 10 are familiar names eking out more mils. Fox’s Night At The Museum, even 8 weeks out, made another $5.8 mil this weekend ($1.3 mil Fri from 2,702 venues, $2.8 mil Sat, est $1.6 mil Sun) hannibalrising_teaserposterbig.jpgfor the 5th spot. (Its cume stands at $232.1 mil.) The studio’s Epic Movie, had a $4.5 mil weekend for 6th. It took in $1.2 mil Friday from 2,806 theaters, $2.1 mil Sat, est $1.1 mil Sun, and a new cume of $35.5 mil. Universal’s Smokin’ Aces, in 7th place, added another $3.9 mil this weekend — $1.2 mil Fri after three weeks out from 2,199 playdates, $1.7 mil Sat, est $950K Sun (cume of $30.9 mil). Picturehouse’s Oscar-touted Pan’s Labyrinth squeezed out a $3.5 mil weekend — $925K Fri from 1,143 theaters, $1.5 mil Sat, est $1 mil Sun for a new cume of $26.5 mil). Nine weeks out, Dreamworks / Paramount’s Dreamgirls found $750K Fri, $1.4 mil Sat, est $825K  Sun from 2,284 theaters for a $3 mil weekend (new cume of $97 mil). And, tied for No. 10, Screen Gems / Sony’s Stomp The Yard and Sony’s The Pursuit Of Happyness made another $2.4 mil this weekend. In 2,045 theaters, Stomp took in $625K Fri, $1.1 mil Sat, est $650K Sun (new cume of $59.1 mil), while Pursuit in 1,777 venues earned $625K Sat, $1.1 mil Sat, est $625K Sun (new cume of $160.5 mil).