Thumbing its nose at critics who slammed it as a mirthless comedy, Peter Segal's Anger Management ignited the box office with a $42.2 million three-day take across North America.
It caused a mad rush in about 3,600 movie houses, with many shows going full on Saturday night, and grossed more than the combined collection of the next 12 movies on the box-office list.
The actual box-office figure was about $2 million less than the estimate issued by the studio on Sunday. Most weeks, the difference between the estimated and actual gross is about 2 per cent.
The film, revolving around a mild-mannered man (Adam Sandler) who is forced to consult a hot-headed, unorthodox therapist (Jack Nicholson), set opening records for Sandler and Nicholson as well.
Big Daddy, the 1999 comedy that Sandler carried entirely on his own, had opened with $41.5 million. Batman, the 1989 hit in which Nicholson was one of many stars, had seized $42.7 million.
Anger Management did not, however, set a career record for director Segal. His Eddie Murphy laugh riot Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, which, like his current film, had a lot of off-colour and sex-related humour, had opened to $42.5 million in 2000. But it burned out fast, ending its North American run with a solid but disappointing $125 million. It was not a big success abroad.
Sandler has little fan following abroad. A hit Sandler movie like Mr Deeds, which grossed about $130 million in North America, barely made $40 million abroad. If Anger Management breaks that tradition, much credit would go to Nicholson.
Even if Anger Management has a mild run abroad, the $56 million movie will be very profitable in the long haul, bringing in $40-50 million to the studio, even after paying its stars part of the box-office gross.
For Sony, whose Bruce Willis-starrer Tears Of The Sun, a $70 million production, had an unsmiling welcome at the box office and is headed for a $43 million run, the huge success of Anger Management is significant. Sony also suffered another big disappointment recently with John Travolta's Basic, which is headed for an inglorious $25 million run.
Director John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair), who directed Basic, had another big flop last year with Rollerball.
Nicholson's critically acclaimed success About Schmidt, in which he has given one of his most self-effacing and acclaimed performances, is still showing in dozens of movie houses across America. The movie did not win an Oscar, but with a $65 million North American gross, and some $40 million abroad, it has turned into a profitable venture.
The huge success of Anger Management rattled the comic drama Bringing Down the House (Steve Martin, Queen Latifah), which fell by 45 per cent -- its steepest in its six-week run. Yet, the comedy grossed $4.5 million this weekend and $117 million overall. The Buena Vista release, co-produced by Ashok Amritraj, is looking towards a $130 million destination.
The psychological crime drama Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell, is on its way to a $45 million total, earning a small but decent profit. The movie, which cost $20-$25 million, earned $7.5 million weekend and $26 million 10-day grosses.
The teen movie What A Girl Wants (Kate Hudson) fell by about 40 per cent to $6.7 million, winning $20.4 million. With a $20 million budget and a $36-38 million forecast, it is bound to be a moneymaker for Warner Bros.
The Vin Diesel film A Man Apart is not standing up to its title. It opened to weak numbers and fell by about 60 per cent over its second weekend, earning $4.5 million. It is expected to end its disappointing run with just about $30 million.
Box-office experts are revising their final estimate for Head Of State, starring Chris Rock, who also directed the comedy. Since the movie tumbled by 54 per cent over the weekend, with $4.5 million at the weekend and $31 million accumulated grosses, it may not go beyond $40 million.
Earlier expectations for the movie had reached $50 million. But since the film cost just about $25 million, it too could make a small profit, with the release of video and DVD versions.
Rob Marshall's Oscar-winning Chicago, a Miramax musical, still continues to allure. Shedding 36 per cent of the box office to make an estimated $3.3 million, it has reached about $157 million. Expect it to exit with a solid $170 million, which is $115 million more than the trendsetting musical Moulin Rouge.
But while Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge doubled its gross abroad to more than $110 million, Chicago is not a big crowd-pleaser abroad except in Britain, Australia and Italy. It is expected to end its run outside America with over $100 million, which is substantially less than its domestic gross.