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‘Anger’ therapeutic to B.O. with $44 mil

Revolution pic a personal best for Adam, Jack

Sony/Revolution’s “Anger Management” managed a blissful opening of $44.5 million in estimated weekend box office — a record for April and personal best for the laffer’s topliners.

Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson romp was frame’s only wide release with a mega-wide 3,551 engagements, and the boffo “Anger” bow seemed to repress other pics already playing in the market. 20th Century Fox’s Colin Farrell thriller “Phone Booth” tumbled 50% in its second frame to $7.5 million in second place.

Warner Bros.’ young-femmes drama “What a Girl Wants” was the least affected among four soph seshers with a 41% drop to $6.7 million in third place. But New Line’s Vin Diesel actioner “A Man Apart” fell apart with a 60% drop to $4.5 million in fifth place, and Miramax/Dimension’s urban laffer “The Dysfunktional Family” declined 58% to $454,000.

Weekend did boast a pair of impressive limited bows.

Lions Gate horror pic “House of 1,000 Corpses” dug up an estimated $3.4 million from 595 playdates, or a lively $5,714 per engagement.

That delivered a surprising seventh-place finish on the frame, even though pic’s theater count fell just outside the definition of a wide release. A $1 million pick-up from Universal — which dropped Rob Zombie-helmed pic over high gore content — Lions Gate plans to expand “Corpses” to about 700 runs next weekend.

“By Saturday, we already had more in box office than we spend in (prints and advertising),” Lions Gate distrib boss Tom Ortenberg enthused.

Paramount Classics/MTV Films debuted its Asian-American drama “Better Luck Tomorrow” in 13 theaters in four markets and grossed $398,489, or a phenom $30,653 per venue. Pic will widen to about 25 locations in 10 markets Friday, with another expansion likely the following sesh.

“This is such a fantastic opening for us that we will analyze what we have and come back (with a plan),” Par Classics’ David Dinerstein said.

“For a little movie from Sundance to get to this point is really something,” said Van Tofler of MTV Films, which acquired pic for $500,000.

“Tomorrow” follows high school exploits of a group of gang-aspiring youths in Orange County. MTV used extensive viral marketing, promoting pic and its electronica and hip-hop soundtrack at music concerts and on the Internet.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Video Sound’s Bollywood thriller “The Hero” grossed $142,000 from 21 engagements, or a sturdy $6,762 per playdate. Distrib plans to hold at roughly the same number of runs for the time being.

Fox Searchlight expanded femme-soccer drama by 99 theaters to a total 216 and grossed $1.4 million, or a solid $6,481 per venue with a $4.3 million cume.

Searchlight also broadened Nick Nolte starrer “The Good Thief” by 52 playdates to a total 61 and grossed $400,000, or $6,557 per engagement with a $606,000 cume.

United Artists’ Robert Duvall starrer “Assassination Tango” added 11 theaters for a total 33 and grossed $125,000, or $3,784 per venue with a $361,000 cume.

Destination/Goldwyn tooner “Cowboy Bebop” added four engagements for a total 23 and grossed $5,000, or $1,051 per playdate with a $435,000 cume.

And Miramax’s Brazilian actioner “City of God” added 18 theaters and grossed $119,000, or $1,102 per venue with a $3.5 million cume.

Industrywide, the weekend repped a 3% uptick from the same frame a year ago with $100 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. That was the first year-over-year market improvement in eight frames as moviegoing has suffered from Iraq war gloom and pics of ho-hum appeal.

Happily for “Anger,” laffers have been the genre of choice lately for diversion-minded moviegoers.

“It was the right film at the right time,” Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said.

“The timing turned out to be perfect,” Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak said.

Sony and Revolution execs believe “Anger” could repeat at No. 1 next weekend, though there will be no shortage of competish. Wide openers set for the coming Easter sesh include Warner Bros. youth laffer “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” Disney’s young-skewing drama “Holes” and MGM’s chopsockey 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 several hundred locations.

“Anger,” which carries a negative cost estimated at $75 million, mounted the best opening ever for a non-sequel laffer. Its monthly record was marked against last April’s $36.1 million debut for “The Scorpion King.”

Bow also outpaced Sandler’s personal record from 1999’s “Big Daddy” ($41.5 million) and Nicholson’s P.R. from “Batman” in 1989 ($42.7 million). Helmer Peter Segal also outdistanced his 2000 perf with “The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” ($42.5 million).