The first quarter of 2003 has seen several strong comedy openingsand the baton passed to Columbia/Revolution's Anger Management over the weekend, which opened numberone on $44.5m - the highest bow of the year so far.

The combination of ShoWest Male Star of the Year recipient AdamSandler and this year's Oscar nominee Jack Nicholson produced personal bestsfor both stars and trounced the opposition.

Overall combined box office was up as the top 12 films grossed$86.9m, according to estimates, up 6.3% from the same weekend last year. Onthat occasion Changing Lanes opened at the top on $17.1m.

In Anger Management, Sandler plays a seemingly mild-mannered man who through variouscomic turns ends up under the supervision of Nicholson's eccentric anger therapist.

It divided the critics but averaged a strong $12,571 from 3,551theatres. Marisa Tomei co-stars and Anger Management was directed by Peter Segal (NuttyProfessor II: The Klumps).

The only other top ten opener was Lions Gate's House Of 1,000Corpses, which opened inseventh on $3.4m. The shock horror film was reportedly deemed so violent thatUniversal executives, who originally had the project, returned the rights todirector and rock band frontman Rob Zombie.

It was a great opening for the distributor, regardless of thehorrific critical response, and averaged a highly respectable $5,714 from 595.In the film, a group of travellers stumbles upon a shrine to homicidal maniacs.

Elsewhere, there was the usual jockeying for position as Fox'sthriller Phone Boothslipped one place to second on $7.5m for $26.6m after 10 days. The Warner Brosromantic drama What A Girl Wants dropped one to three in its second week, adding $6.7m for a10-day $20.4m running total.

Another opener last week, New Line's action-thriller A ManApart, fell two to fifthon $4.5m and $18.3m after 10 days.

Next weekend, when many will be celebrating Passover and Easter,sees openings for the Warner Bros comedy Malibu's Most Wanted and Buena Vista's family film Holes. In addition, MGM's martial artsthriller Bulletproof Monk and Fox's Latino comedy Chasing Papi are due to open on Wednesday.

Estimated Top Ten US April 11-13, 2003

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekendgross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Anger Management (Columbia/Revolution) CTFDI $44.5m -

2 (1) Phone Booth (Fox) Fox International $7.5m $26.6m

3 (2) What A Girl Wants (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.7m $20.4m

4 (5) Bringing Down The House (Buena Vista) BVI $4.6m $117.7m

5 (3) A Man Apart (New Line) NLI $4.5m $18.3m

6 (4) Head of State (Dreamworks) UIP $4m $30.9m

7 (-) House Of 1,000 Corpses (Lions Gate) Lions Gate International $3.4m --

8 (8) Chicago (Miramax) Miramax International $3.3m $156.9m

9 (6) The Core (Paramount) UIP $3.2m $25.7m

10 (7) Basic (Columbia/Intermedia) Intermedia $2.2m $23.8m