1989 was a particularly brutal year (by entertainment industry standards) for Eddie Murphy. COMING TO AMERICA (1988) had been a huge success for the actor, giving him enough clout for Paramount to let him handle nearly everything outside of craft services on his next feature, HARLEM NIGHTS (1989), which filmed in the spring of ‘89. Unfortunately, beginning in August 1989, Murphy’s name was in the trades seemingly daily after Art Buchwald filed a lawsuit regarding AMERICA in 1988. As the suit went forward in 1989, Murphy and several of his people were deposed and it made headlines week after week. It is hard to say this impacted the box office of NIGHTS, but when that film opened in November 1989, it only did so-so (by Murphy standards).
Not surprising since it was the only big release that weekend, ANOTHER opening in first place with a haul of just over $19.4 million dollars. This was the third biggest opening of Murphy’s career, behind BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) and COMING TO AMERICA (1988) with $26 million and $21 million, respectively. Unfortunately, it topped out in the U.S. at $80 million. A fine sum by a normal person’s standards (and far bigger than the original), but Hollywood isn’t filled with normal people. Because it didn’t crack $100 million in the U.S. like the aforementioned entries in Murphy’s filmography, the film was deemed a “flop.” Yes, despite having made Paramount over a billion dollars up to this point, they were disappointed. Murphy would actually take a break for two years after this film. So, yeah, slapping a movie that cost tens of millions of dollars together in a matter of months might not be the best idea. The ultimate irony here is that Paramount ended up having the biggest film that summer in the fantasy-romance (and non-sequel) GHOST (1990), which only cost them $22 million dollars and went on to make $500 million worldwide.