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Family movies "Patch Adams,' "Stepmom' set the holiday pace

Patch Adams was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend, and Stepmom held its own as family films claimed the top box office spots over the New Year's holiday, according to weekly industry estimates released Sunday.

Though roundly panned as sappy, the Robin Williams movie about a doctor who uses comedy to heal was an audience hit, with $20.1-million in ticket sales.

"People are really responding to his Golden Globe nomination for best actor, and they're very taken by . . . the true-life story of Patch Adams," said Alan Sutton, senior vice president of distribution and marketing for Universal Pictures.

Stepmom, which also took critical lumps, was second with $15-million, followed by the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan comedy You've Got Mail with $14.1-million.

Also doing well were animated and children's films, which are typically trucked out during the holidays because studios know children are out of school and families are together.

The Prince of Egypt, DreamWorks' animated adult fable of Moses that reportedly cost more than $100-million to make, was in fourth place with $11.5-million, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Disney's A Bug's Life was in fifth place.

Disney had two other films in the Top 10. The big ape movie Mighty Joe Young was sixth with $8.7-million and Enemy of the State was at No. 8 with $5-million. The horror film The Faculty, which took in $8-million, was in seventh place.

Star Trek: Insurrection and Jack Frost rounded out the list, with $4.8-million and $3.2-million, respectively.

Movies are thriving generally, thanks in part to the soaring number of screens, said Phil Barlow, president of Disney's Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

"All sorts of records are being shattered. People are going to movies more than they've ever gone," he said.

Even so, the take for the top 12 weekend films was down from the same weekend last year _ $106.4-million, compared with $107.1-million.

Final figures were to be released today.

At the box office

Here are estimated grosses at North American theaters for Friday through Sunday as compiled by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. Patch Adams, $20.1-million.

2. Stepmom, $15-million.

3. You've Got Mail, $14.1-million.

4. The Prince of Egypt, $11.5-million.

5. A Bug's Life, $10-million.

6. Mighty Joe Young, $8.7-million.

7. The Faculty, $8-million.

8. Enemy of the State, $5-million.

9. Star Trek: Insurrection, $4.8-million.

10. Jack Frost, $3.2-million.