i>NORBIT BITES BOX OFFICE

Norbit, starring Eddie Murphy in three separate roles (including a grossly overweight woman), earned a big, fat $33.7 million at the box office over the weekend, well ahead of analysts' forecasts. MGM's latest addition to the Hannibal Lecter franchise, Hannibal Rising, placed second with $13.4 million, considerably below expectations. Both films had received mostly negative reviews. Third place went to Universal's Because I Said So, which earned $9 million in its second weekend. Nevertheless, despite the strong showing for Norbit, the overall box office was down 7 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. It was the fourth consecutive weekend that the box office showed minus results.The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Norbit, $33.7 million; 2. Hannibal Rising, $13.35 million; 3. Because I Said So, $9 million; 4. The Messengers, $7.2 million; 5. Night at the Museum, $5.75 million; 6. Epic Movie, $4.45 million; 7. Smokin' Aces, $3.8 million; 8. Pan's Labyrinth, $3.55 million; 9. Dreamgirls, $3.1 million; 10. The Queen, $2.5 million.

CORRECTION: In Friday's summary of critics' reviews of Hannibal Rising, we erroneously attributed the comment, "It's enough to make you eat your heart out" to Kyle Smith of the New York Post. It should have been attributed to Sam Adams of the Los Angeles Times. We regret the error.

AWARDS, AWARDS, AWARDS

In the latest awards ceremonies prior to the Oscars, the Orange British Academy Film Awards (the BAFTAs) crowned The Queen best film of the year and its star, Helen Mirren, best actress. Forest Whitaker won the best actor trophy for his portrayal of Uganda's Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. British director Paul Greengrass took the director prize for United 93. Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America agreed with most critics groups as it presented its top screenplay honors Sunday to Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine in the original category and to William Monahan for The Departed in the adapted category. The decision lifts each film into frontrunner position for this year's Oscars competition. Finally, Pixar's Cars sped away with the top prize Sunday at the annual Annies animation awards.

CHRISTIAN ACTIVISTS CAMPAIGN AGAINST YET-UNFINISHED MOVIE

The upcoming indie movie Breakfast With Scot, which tells the story of two gay men -- one of whom is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team -- who are raising an eccentric 11-year-old boy, is already arousing controversy even before its release, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Bernadette Mansur, the NHL's senior vice president for communications, indicated that the protests are being spearheaded by Christian activist James Hartline, who claims to be a former homosexual. Although he has not seen the movie, he has called it "degrading" and accused the NHL of "promoting homosexualization of small children" and "becoming a willing partner with the fringe elements of the radicalized homosexual agenda and their ultimate goal of worldwide sexual anarchy." In Canada itself, Brian Rushfeldt of Canada Family Action Coalition charged that the Maple Leafs are "underwriting homosexuality. ... I don't think it does much for the image of the NHL amongst families who may want their children involved in hockey." Mansur insisted, however, that the NFL "didn't intend to make a statement one way or another about homosexuals" and that the film merely tells "a story of a contemporary American family that exists today."

DENCH CAN'T "BREAK A LEG" FOR OSCARS; DOES NEXT BEST THING

During a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival today (Monday) a reporter asked Dame Judi Dench whether she will be taking any show-biz superstitions to the Oscars with her this year. Dench, who has been nominated four times for best actress, but has never won (she won for best supporting actress for 1998's Shakespeare in Love), said that she sometimes thinks of the "break a leg" superstition when she considers her own situation: she'll be undergoing a knee operation and won't be attending the Oscars this year, she said.

Brian B.