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Billy Madison' is tops at U.S. box office

By DAVE McNARY UPI Business Writer

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 12 -- The opening of school comedy 'Billy Madison' edged out the debut of 'The Quick and the Dead' to lead a mild national box office with an estimated $7 million at 1,835 theaters for the Friday-Sunday period, studio sources said Sunday. 'Billy Madison,' starring 'Saturday Night Live' actor Adam Sandler as a lazy but loveable heir to a fortune who must go back to elementary school, took advantage of Sandler's popularity among teenagers and young adults to score its victory. The low-budget, high- concept project should rack up some decent numbers during the upcoming President's Day holiday weekend for Universal. Overall, studio executives said that the box office continued to slump with business off about 30 percent from the same weekend last year. TriStar's opening of 'The Quick and the Dead' has to rate as a major disappointment, given the lack of strong competition and the heavy publicity campaign launched by the studio in support of the project. 'Quick' took in about $6.5 million at 2,158 theaters -- an unimpressive performance considering the large number of screens and the box office appeal of Sharon Stone, who plays a gunslinger facing down Gene Hackman in a mythical town called Redemption. TriStar's 'Legends of the Fall' led the rest of the pack, continuing to post solid numbers in its eighth week with $4.6 million at 2,038 to give it nearly $49 million gross. The Montana family epic could receive a major boost Tuesday when Academy Award nominations are announced.

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Warner Bros.' second weekend of 'Boys on the Side' continued to hold up adequately in fourth place with $4.2 million at 1,444 theaters. Paramount's eighth weekend of 'Nobody's Fool' finished fifth with $2.4 million at 1,007 theaters to give it $27.3 million overall. It is probably going to receive some help from Oscar nominations also. New Line's ninth weekend of 'Dumb and Dumber' was a close sixth with $2.3 million at 1,779 theaters to give it about $111 million after 59 days. It was followed by New Line's second weekend of 'In the Mouth of Madness' with $2.1 million at 1,531 theaters. Rounding out the Top 10 was Warner's third weekend of 'Murder in the First' with $1.5 million at 1,041 theaters, Columbia's fifth weekend of 'Higher Learning' with $1.4 million at 1,080 screens, and Disney's second weekend of 'The Jerky Boys' with $1.3 million at 1,513 theaters. Miramax's third weekend of 'Highlander III' may have also cracked the Top 10. Two major projects are set for release next weekend to take advantage of the holiday on Monday -- Warner's 'Just Cause,' a legal thriller starring Sean Connery, and Paramount's 'The Brady Bunch.' Both have strong potential, with 'Just Cause' probably the more powerful contender. Disney is also releasing a kid comedy, 'Heavyweights,' starring a bunch of overweight youngsters at sumer camp.

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