Jackie Robinson made history again as the new film 42 delivered the best opening ever for a baseball movie and clinched first place at the North American box office by racing past industry expectations. Meanwhile, the mindless spoof comedy Scary Movie 5 attracted a fraction of the once-popular franchise’s audience and debuted in second place with unimpressive results. Overall ticket sales were about even with normal mid-April levels.
Warner Bros. scored its best opening of 2013 with the inspirational baseball drama 42 which grossed an estimated $27.3M from 3,003 theaters for a potent $9,074 average. The PG-13 hit ended up well ahead of pre-release expectations which had it opening to a ceiling of $20M. In the process the feel-good pic broke the record for the best debut ever for any baseball flick beating the $19.7M of 2006’s The Benchwarmers as well as the $19.5M of the more recent Moneyball from 2011 which went on to become a major Oscar contender. Unlike football movies, films about America’s national pastime have never driven in huge numbers on opening weekend.
But the stellar debut wasn’t the only good news for 42 as its future looks exceptionally bright with a long-lasting rally ahead. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the story about Major League Baseball’s first African-American player a sensational A+ grade indicating fantastic word-of-mouth for the coming weeks. Plus the crowd skewed very old and mature adults do not always rush out on opening weekend so a sizable audience still lies ahead. In addition, Monday is Jackie Robinson Day when all baseball players wear his famous number 42 jersey during their games adding a tremendous amount of free publicity for the film to exploit in the days ahead. The studio carefully slotted it during a time when the sport’s new season was beginning to capitalize on fan excitement.
Studio research showed that 52% of the crowd was female and a very high 59% was part of the older than usual demographic category of “over 35.” Though Warner Bros. had no data breakdown, African-Americans made up a significant portion of the audience too although not a majority as 42 had broad appeal to many groups. TV actor Chadwick Boseman played the famous ballplayer while Harrison Ford took the role of the 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers general manager that hired him. Outside of his fourth Indiana Jones film in 2008, Ford has had all flops over the past dozen years so this is a well-needed success for the 70-year-old legend who has starred in $100M+ blockbusters in each of the past five decades.
42 now joins a couple of other recent dramas that dealt with fighting racial discrimination against blacks – 2009’s The Blind Side and 2011’s The Help. All three films featured a large number of both black and white characters and earned A+ grades. Blind and Help both enjoyed sturdy legs finishing their domestic runs with six to seven times their opening weekend tallies. 42 is running during a weaker spring play period, but if it can also capitalize on positive buzz it will easily break through the $100M barrier and may even surpass $125M. It cost only $38M to produce.
Proving itself to be an unnecessary sequel, the spoof comedy Scary Movie 5 opened in second place with an estimated $15.2M from 3,402 theaters for a mild $4,454 average. That’s a far cry from what the franchise has generated in the past as three of the four installments opened to north of $40M. The new PG-13 chapter came seven years after the last one, Scary Movie 4, bowed to a stellar $40.2M on this same weekend in 2006. Part 5’s opening weekend was 62% smaller in gross and attracted nearly 70% fewer people. The four previous films carried low budgets and grossed a remarkable $752M in combined global box office.
The Weinstein Co. release was not screened for critics in advance and reviews were understandably horrible when they finally had a chance to see the film. The new Scary tried to sell itself as being hip and relevant by promoting its co-stars Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan who have been tabloid favorites in recent years. But audiences did not bite. They could see their wild antics for free anytime. Plus spoof comedies have lost their popularity and January’s R-rated hit A Haunted House already satisfied what hunger there was for a movie send-up of the horror genre with an opening weekend average that was twice as big. The CinemaScore grade was a horrible C- and TV spots with lame jokes didn’t help any.
Still holding up well in its fourth weekend was the pre-historic toon The Croods with an estimated $13.2M, off 36%. The Fox release has now banked an impressive $142.5M and has become the year’s second highest-grossing film after Oz. Kids around the world are coming out for the cavepeople pic as Croods collected an estimated $25.5M overseas this weekend boosting international to $244.8M and the global gross to $387.3M on its way to $500M+.
Busting through the century mark was the action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation which fell 48% to an estimated $10.8M for a cume to date of $102.4M. After its third frame, the Paramount franchise flick boosted its global total to $270.7M including $168.3M from overseas markets surpassing the $152.3M final international tally of its 2D predecessor from 2009. With China opening Monday and Japan to come on June 8, a worldwide haul of $400M is possible.
A pair of sophomores channeling films from years past followed with large declines. The horror remake Evil Dead tumbled 63% to an estimated $9.5M giving Sony $41.5M to date. Look for a $50-55M final. Universal’s Jurassic Park 3D dropped 53% to an estimated $8.8M putting the classic dinosmash at $31.9M in ten days. The lifetime gross shot up to $389M allowing the Steven Spielberg hit to climb up to number 16 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters putting it in between the second Transformers and the final Harry Potter.
Benefiting from solid word-of-mouth, and continued news coverage of North Korea’s nuclear threats, the action hit Olympus Has Fallen enjoyed the lowest decline for any film in wide release slipping only 28% to an estimated $7.3M. FilmDistrict has banked a stellar $81.9M and should find its way to the $100M mark. 2013’s biggest blockbuster, Oz the Great and Powerful, followed with an estimated $4.9M sliding by 39%. Disney has amassed $219.4M domestically and a healthy $471M worldwide with its expensive fantasy pic.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation fell sharply by 55% in its third round to an estimated $4.5M raising the cume for Lionsgate to $45.4M. Focus generated encouraging results for its Ryan Gosling-Bradley Cooper drama The Place Beyond The Pines which enjoyed a successful national expansion with an estimated $4.1M from 514 theaters (up from 30) for a solid $7,938 average. Platforming two weeks ago in just three locations, the R-rated pic has taken in $5.5M to date.
Tom Cruise’s new sci-fi actioner Oblivion debuted in most of the world outside of North America this weekend and delivered strong results with an estimated $61.1M from 7,444 theaters in 52 international markets, ranking number one in 48 of them. Leading the way were Russia with $8.6M (a new career record for Cruise), the United Kingdom with $7.9M, and Korea with $4.1M. The futuristic thriller invades North America and seven overseas markets next weekend and is expected to rule the domestic box office.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $105.5M which was up 1% from last year when The Hunger Games stayed at number one for a fourth weekend with $21.1M; but down 5% from 2011 when Rio opened in the top spot with $39.2M.