Inside Move: April showers

Spring B.O. sprouts but casualties mount

Traditionally, April has been the slowest month of the year at the box office. But don’t tell that to distribs who just finished a record-breaking April, as well as one of the most grueling.

“It was a meat grinder,” says Paramount distrib prexy Wayne Lewellen. “There were some casualties.”

Overall, U.S. box office saw $600 million worth of biz in April, topping the $549 million record set in 2002.

Typically, a hit or two has taken root in April — recall “Anger Management” in 2003 and “Scorpion King” in 2002 — boosted by a relatively clear marketplace otherwise populated by forgettable films.

Planning their April 2004 releases, Hollywood studios seemed to all have the same good idea to take advantage of the historically slack month by skedding pics that would play for female auds and actioners that might get lost in summer.

The result was a bruising calendar, with 19 wide releases across four weekends, many vying for the same auds. But the market also expanded, with a record five films opening during the month at higher than $20 million — two of which were on the April 23 weekend with “Man on Fire” grossing $23 million and “13 Going on 30” posting $21 million.

But “13” ran into a buzzsaw of competition in its second week, facing Par’s Lindsay Lohan starrer “Mean Girls,” which opened with $24 million, causing the Garner pic to stumble more than 50% to $10 million.

Earlier in the month, on April 16, Miramax’s “Kill Bill Vol. 2” (which opened with $25 million) faced off vs. Lions Gate’s “The Punisher” ($14 million) leading most observers to conclude that the films hurt each other. And, for good measure, another comic adapatation, “Hellboy” from Sony and Revolution, was in its third weekend, picking up $5 million.

“You had a glut of films all together whether they’re going after your audience or not,” Lewellen says. “A lot of business was cut up pretty thin.”