Sandler pairing to test Nicholson's sturdiness

Will two topliners show more leg than one?

Jack Nicholson’s movies usually have better second-week holds than those starring Adam Sandler. So it will be intriguing to watch whether the elder co-star’s sturdier gams help “Anger Management” outperform the typical Sandler pic in laffer’s soph sesh.

Execs at Sony and Revolution are hoping “Anger” will repeat atop the box office this Easter weekend and maybe even the following frame. But a flurry of competing wide releases will join the market fray over the next two weeks.

This week’s wide-openers include Warner Bros. youth laffer “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” Disney’s young-skewing drama “Holes” and MGM’s chopsocky actioner “Bulletproof Monk.” Warners also has a more limited debut skedded for its folk music spoof “A Mighty Wind,” and Fox will unspool Spanish market laffer “Chasing Papi” in 583 locations.

Getting head start

“Monk,” repping Chow Yun-Fat’s first pic since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” bows today to capture students getting a stretched holiday weekend; likewise “Wind” and “Papi.” Hip-hop-themed “Most Wanted” and Sigourney Weaver starrer “Holes” open Friday.

“Anger” managed an April record bow of $42.2 million last weekend. So even a big 50% drop this sesh from pic’s opening grosses would mean a competing film would have to do more than $21 million to finish ahead of the Nicholson-Sandler starrer, and virtually nobody expects that to happen.

Nicholson’s last five wide-openers on average dropped a relatively modest 30% over their second weekends. That compares with an average 44% falloff for the past five Sandler wide-openers, the last two — 2002’s “Mr. Deeds” and 2000’s “Little Nicky” — tumbled 51% and 52% respectively.

Nicholson — who like Sandler occasionally stars in platformed releases not included in those calculations — would have an even better average hold were it not for 1996’s disappointing “Mars Attacks!” Tim Burton-helmed sci-fi spoof dropped a big 50% in its soph sesh, well beyond the more typical Nicholson starrer like “The Pledge” (36%) and “As Good as It Gets” (3%).

Part of Sandler’s second-week problem reps the practical downside of his delivering a big fan base opening weekend. But Nicholson pics are also often better reviewed, creating a positive buzz. “Word of mouth takes over once a picture gets (released),” noted Dan Marks, exec veep at B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. “In large measure, it replaces marketing as a driving force.”

Auds gave “Anger” less than boffo ratings in exit surveys over pic’s first weekend, and that could limit positive word of mouth. On the other hand, pic’s $2.9 million in biz on its eighth day in release Monday reps real reason for optimism.

‘Feels really good’

“That bodes well, and with the holiday weekend coming up I think there’s going to be a very strong hold,” Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said. “It feels really good for this weekend.”

Easter is often not a great B.O. frame, though Good Friday grosses can be strong. “A lot of people will be out of work and out of school on Friday, so the hope is that will help the hold,” Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak said. “We’ll also be watching the Weather Channel, because if you want a lot of business on Easter Sunday, you hope for rain.”

Meanwhile, a strong soph sesh would appear to be necessary before handicappers will take seriously any suggestion “Anger” can three-peat atop weekend rankings.

After all, a 50% drop this weekend would leave laffer needing a much stronger third sesh to perform even in the teen millions over the April 25 frame. Wide-openers set for that sesh include Sony suspenser “Identity,” toplined by John Cusack and Ray Liotta; Lions Gate drama “Confidence,” starring Edward Burns, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz; and MGM drama “It Runs in the Family,” featuring Kirk Douglas, son Michael and other kin.

(Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.)

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