An 'A' at the Box Office: "Billy Madison," the back-to-school comedy starring "Saturday Night Live's" Adam Sandler, went to the head of the class at the nation's box office during the weekend. The Universal film grossed $7 million its first weekend in release, according to early industry estimates, despite receiving some dismal reviews. In second place was TriStar's "The Quick and the Dead," the Western starring Sharon Stone, with $6.7 million for its opening weekend. TriStar's "Legends of the Fall" fell from first place, coming in third with $4.6 million. Warner Bros.' "Boys on the Side" was fourth with $4.4 million and New Line's "Dumb and Dumber" was fifth with $2.4 million.
'Sisters' Star Snags Film: Actress Julianne Phillips, who left NBC's "Sisters" to concentrate on a feature film career, has already landed her first starring role. She'll play the female lead in Morgan Creek's "Big Bully," opposite Tom Arnold and Rick Moranis. Phillips' last episode of "Sisters" aired on Saturday (the story line had her character moving to Japan); her spokeswoman said that Phillips, who starred on "Sisters" for five seasons, may return to the show, however, for an occasional episode or two.
Women in the Biz: Marking a first for Hollywood women, the short film "No Dogs Allowed" went into production on Sunday. The movie, starring Kate Capshaw and Rita Wilson, is the first project from the West's Women Filmmakers Program, a joint effort of the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America designed to promote filmmaking opportunities for female members of both guilds. The film, which is about a female screenwriting team, was written by WGA members Hollace White and Stephanie Garman, who will co-produce it with its director, DGA member Linda Rockstroh. The nonprofit women's filmmaking program aims to gives women in the movie business a new forum as well as exposure.
The Lion's Share: An auction of artwork from Disney's "The Lion King," the top-grossing movie of 1994, raised almost $2 million at Sotheby's in New York on Saturday, a record for animation art. The standing-room-only sale attracted a wide range of bidders, from seasoned collectors to parents with young "Lion King" fans. The highest price paid at the 256-piece auction was $39,100 for an image of the lion cub Simba with Pumbaa the warthog and Timon the meerkat. The image, which went for almost eight times the pre-sale estimate, was purchased by a private European collector.
Buckley in Broadway's 'Boulevard': Betty Buckley, currently starring in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard," will be taking her act to Broadway this summer to replace Glenn Close, sources close to the production said. The sources said Buckley will replace Close on July 4 in the role of fading film star Norma Desmond. Buckley won rave reviews for her performance, as has Close. The sources said an official announcement will be made this week.
New 'Peter and the Wolf': Kirstie Alley and Lloyd Bridges will star in ABC's film version of Sergei Prokofiev's classic tale "Peter and the Wolf." The hourlong movie, which will combine animation and live action, will premiere on the network at Christmastime, followed by a home video release. The movie will expand upon new "Peter and the Wolf" characters created by legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones for the fairy tale's CD-ROM version, released last month by Time Warner Interactive. Ross Malinger ("Sleepless in Seattle"), who was featured with Alley and Bridges in the CD-ROM version, will co-star.
Umbrella Music: The Los Angeles Philharmonic's New Music Group's "Green Umbrella" series, featuring the works of new composers under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen, begins airing on KUSC (91.5 FM) tonight from 8 to 10. The series will be introduced by Tom Crann, host of the station's "Morning Show." Salonen and American composer Steven Stucky will provide commentary. The first program, a broadcast of one of the group's recent concerts, includes works by Stucky, Romanian composers Gyorgy Ligeti and Gyorgy Kurtag and British composer Bernard Rands. The airdates of three additional "Green Umbrella" concerts have yet to be scheduled.
Actress Penelope Ann Miller ("The Freshman," "Carlito's Way") is ending her 40-day-old marriage to William Emerson Arnett. Citing irreconcilable differences, Miller, 31, filed a divorce petition Friday in Los Angeles. . . . Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford reprise their roles from the 1975-1985 series "The Jeffersons" when they guest-star as George and Louise on the Feb. 20 episode of NBC's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."