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Disney leads record-setting April

Comedies, actioners rule month

April was on fire at the box office.

The period of April 2-29 rang up $600 million, outstripping the month’s 2002 all-time record of $549 million. Overall, last month’s receipts bested the same frame a year ago by 11%.

While comedies were the dominant genre, grossing $211 million, April was also about action pics. The genre shot up more than twofold over April ’03, grossing $209 million, thanks to five frosh wide actioners.

Disney, fueled by middle grossers “Home on the Range” and “The Ladykillers,” nabbed the month’s No. 1 spot with $93 million. Sony followed in second place with $88 million, bolstered by Revolution pics “Hellboy” and “13 Going on 30.”

Even without record openings, this April’s average bow for a wide release was up 21% to $13 million. Last year’s “Anger Management” stands as the highest three-day gross for an April pic to date at $42 million.

Kids on spring break didn’t hurt business either. During Easter weekend alone, 80% of the nation’s schools were off on Good Friday, while the remaining 20% had the following Friday off, according to Nielsen EDI.

Unlike April ’03, when indie fare such as Fox Searchlight’s “Bend It Like Beckham” and Warner Bros.’ “A Mighty Wind,” played to hearty niche crowds, April’s specialty fare in under 600 engagements generated $20 million, a 38% downtick from a year ago.

“There weren’t any platform releases that really connected with audiences like in prior years when there was ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ or ‘Y tu mama tambien.’ which played heavily into the spring,” says Fox Searchlight distrib topper Steve Giulula, remarking on the arthouse downturn.

The top grossing films in April:

Sony/Revolution’s “Hellboy,” $56 million; Miramax’s “Kill Bill, Vol. 2,” $47 million; Newmarket/Icon’s “The Passion of the Christ,” $45 million; Disney’s “Home on the Range,” $43 million; WB’s “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” $42 million; MGM’s “Walking Tall,” $41 million; Fox’s “Man on Fire,” $29 million; Paramount’s “The Prince & Me,” $27 million; Lions Gate’s “The Punisher,” $26 million; and Fox Searchlight’s “Johnson Family Vacation,” $26 million.

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