This fact gets trotted out every year, and it continues to baffle, but here it is: the biggest opening weekend for a baseball-themed movie is “The Benchwarmers” with $19.7 million. Despite the fact that no single human being has ever willingly watched that film beyond that first weekend, it’s managed to sustain that record despite a number of contemporary mainstream baseball releases. But this weekend, somehow, the adventures of Spade, Schneider and Heder have been surpassed by “42,” the Jackie Robinson biopic.
Usually studios will capitalize on major moments on the sports calendar to release a corresponding movie, whether it be the NBA Finals, NCAA March Madness, or The Lumberjack Championships, with “Moneyball” and “Trouble With The Curve” being the last major baseball films hitting the multiplex right before the start of the postseason. “42” similarly capitalized on the excitement from the start of the season two weeks ago (as well as Sunday’s Jackie Robinson Day), utilizing an aggressive marketing campaign boosted by Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn (We Go Hard),” an example of a pop song doing an ad campaign’s heavy lifting. Speaking of which, it would be interesting to examine the demographics behind this opening (which generated a rare ‘A+’ Cinemascore), as various smartypants sports journalists love writing articles about how baseball has lost popularity among black Americans.
While not exactly spotlighted in the ads, this increases the visibility of lead Chadwick Boseman, who is quite excellent as Robinson. A star is born? After this opening, it would be nice to see Boseman on the same casting lists as other young up-and-comers around Hollywood. Hey, maybe Marvel has found its "Black Panther"? But it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room; as diminished as his box office appeal may be, Harrison Ford is still a household name, and his joyless lurching from press event to press event greatly helped increase the film’s profile.
Each “Scary Movie” film thus far has been something of a smash, with the last entry in 2006 pulling in over $40 million in its first three days. But as the Weinsteins took their Miramax/Dimension franchises to The Weinstein Company, they waited a bit too long to capitalize on whatever heat those titles had left. So in the tradition of “Scream 4” and “Spy Kids: All The Time In The World” comes “Scary Movie 5,” a movie that only Simon Rex asked for. With the absence of Anna Faris and Regina Hall, two actors that starred in all previous four films, you had to wonder if the promo team knew what they were doing spotlighting the presence of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan as some sort of substitution, even if an allegedly more sane Sheen was apparently in the last one.
Since that fourth “Scary Movie,” the spoof well has been poisoned by the “Date Movie” and “Epic Movie” guys, as their annual offerings eventually saw diminished returns. However, it has to sting that this opening doesn’t even match that of “A Haunted House,” the horror spoof made independently by “Scary Movie” originator Marlon Wayans that grossed over $40 and is now slated for a sequel. The Weinstein Company, you just got kicked in yo’ ghost balls.
“The Croods” hung on strong in weekend four, though at this point it may not elevate to the level of DreamWorks hit “How To Train Your Dragon.” But these numbers suggest that “The Croods 2: The Streets” could very well be a possibility. Most of these CGI ‘toons bank on an accompanying animated series, massive merchandising stats and a couple of sequels, so we’ll see how aggressive Fox is feeling with their first DreamWorks Animation title, and potential franchise. You wonder if Paramount is thinking the same about “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” They announced a sequel quickly after the opening weekend, but domestically, it's possible it could finish $20 million or greater below its predecessor. However, globally, it will heavily outpace the first film. Will a third movie get made or was 'Retaliation' just a pre-summer palette cleanser?
Tradition dictates that horror films fall off sharply after that first weekend, and in that respect, “Evil Dead” didn’t disappoint. The $17 million-budgeted effort did indeed fall off a cliff from the number one slot last weekend, though it’s likely a considerable success at this point. Given that Sam Raimi and company stretched the original series to increasingly ridiculous directions, does Sony have the stones to go weirder with an “Evil Dead 2”? Maybe the better, more relevant question is why does Sony have to spend $17 million on an “Evil Dead” movie? For Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, a shingle specifically for very low budget horror, it’s worth noting this will be their eighth release to gross over $30 million domestic.
“Jurassic Park 3D” continued a trend of underperforming re-releases, losing a hefty chunk of its opening audience. Universal has to be content with this providing a little extra exposure for this franchise before a fourth film comes out, and surely some DVD boxed sets will be moved before “Jurassic Park IV” steps out of the paddocks next summer. For some of these re-releases, the real money is in overseas revenue anyway, and Spielberg’s dino-bash should be much more successful internationally. Surprisingly, the weekend’s strongest hold was “Olympus Has Fallen,” which could conceivably leg it out to $100 million if FilmDistrict keeps it in theaters and it continues receiving what apparently has been rather strong word-of-mouth.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” has hung on long enough to await being punched out of the top ten by the latest big blockbuster, though Disney’s potential franchise-starter is the year’s highest-grossing film, even if it may not even sniff $600 million worldwide. “Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor” should land over $50 million, a spectacular result for a film without Perry’s Madea character that received the smallest wide release of any Perry films in years. And expanding from 30 to 514 theaters was “The Place Beyond the Pines,” gate-crashing the top ten right ahead of “Trance,” itself at 438 locations, collecting a little less than a million.
In limited release, an expansion from five to 41 theaters for "The Company You Keep" established the film as the strongest holdover with $311k. Moderately in the same ballpark was the 15-theater debut of "Disconnect," which grossed a so-so $124k. "Upstream Color" expanded from its single location into ten more theaters, collecting $74k, while "The Angels' Share" and "It's A Disaster" opened with $21k and $17k in three theaters each, respectively. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. 42 (Warner Bros.) - $27.3 million
2. Scary Movie 5 (The Weinstein Company) - $15.1 million
3. The Croods (Fox/DreamWorks) - $13.2 million ($143 mil.)
4. G.I. Joe: No Backsies (Paramount) - $10.8 million ($102 mil.)
5. Evil Dead (Sony) - $9.5 million ($41 mil.)
6. Jurassic Park 3D (Universal) - $8 million ($31 mil.)
7. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) - $6.8 million ($81 mil.)
8. Oz: The Adequate And Marginal (Disney) - $4.8 million ($219 mil.)
9. Tyler Perry’s Wiping His Ass With Benjamins (Lionsgate) - $4.3 million ($45 mil.)
10. The Place Beyond T- Oh Screw It, It’s Schenectady (Focus) - $3.8 million ($5.1 mil.)