'Anger' Manages April Record: $42.2 Million

by Brandon Gray
April 14, 2003

With the war, SARS and, worst of all, the April 15 tax deadline plaguing real life, America vented with Anger Management.

Comedy has ruled the marketplace this year, but the Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson vehicle took it to the next level, exploding onto the scene with a $42,220,847 weekend at 3,551 theaters. Although it ended up with $2.3 million less than distributor Sony's $44.5 million estimate, it nonetheless eclipsed Daredevil's $40,310,419 to become the top opening of the year. More importantly, it beat The Scorpion King's $36,075,875 as the biggest bow the month of April has ever seen.

Anger also marks a career high weekend for both Sandler and Nicholson. However, Sandler's The Waterboy ($39,414,071 opening) and Big Daddy ($41,536,370) and Nicholson's Batman ($40,489,746) actually sold significantly more tickets out of the gate from fewer theaters.

Sony kicked off the $75 million comedy's marketing campaign with a memorable spot during the Super Bowl, featuring quick shots of slapstick including Sandler tackling of Nicholson and a monk Waterboy-style. It culminated with Sandler and Nicholson in bed together with Nicholson saying "In Europe, it's not considered unusual for three or four men to share a bed" and Sandler nervously replying "That's why I'm proud to be an American." Subsequent ads followed the same line featuring more loony bits like Nicholson singing a bar of "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story.

What really built the buzz, though, was the seemingly oddball pairing of the lowbrow Sandler and the Oscar-laden Nicholson. When major stars team up for the first time, often the box office result is less than the sum of its parts, such as Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger ($66,384,775) and Robin Williams and Bill Crystal in Father's Day ($28,598,376). Anger avoided this problem by playing to Sandler and Nicholson's personae so well that they proved complimentary enough to be an exception. After all, the two stars are best known for their rage-ridden performances.

Breaking the weekend down, 'Anger' was all the rage Friday with $15,375,244 from its super-saturated 3,551-theater berth, the best opening day of the year and of its stars' careers. On Saturday, it increased a respectable 14.1% to $17,549,412. Sony projected it lose only a third of its business on Sunday, but that proved overly optimistic. The picture fell 47% to $9,296,191, comparable to Sunday drops of fellow comedies Bringing Down the House and Head of State.

Demonstrating the general weakness of April, the advent of Anger spelled the fall of the holdovers. There was no expansion of the box office pie as one might see when several strong movies enter the marketplace. Anger simply gobbled up the lion's share of the existing pie. Sophomores Phone Booth and A Man Apart were rendered one-week wonders with 49% and 60% drops respectively. Basic and The Core continued to plummet, eschewing the usual third week leveling off. What's more, Bringing Down the House and Head of the State took their biggest hits yet, 46% and 54% respectively. All told, movies in wide release tumbled 52% on average.

With an anemic roster of flicks for the rest of the month, Anger could rule the roost until X2: X-Men United is unleashed on May 2. According to CinemaScore, though, moviegoers gave Anger a C+, a very low grade by the firm's standards suggesting that word-of-mouth will be negative or indifferent. Even if it has a precipitous fall over Easter weekend, it should remain No. 1 as openers Bulletproof Monk, Holes and Malibu's Most Wanted will likely do moderate business at best.

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