The Jackie Robinson biopic "42" hit it out of the box-office ballpark this weekend. Its $27 million debut is the best any baseball film has ever managed.
The weekend's other wide opener, horror spoof "Scary Movie 5," was second and took in $15 million. Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen starred, but it came in well below what other entries in the franchise have done for the Weinstein Company. Holdovers "The Croods" and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" were third and fourth, with $13.2 million and $10.8 million respectively. Last week's No. 1 film, "Evil Dead," was fifth with $9.5 million.
Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.' " tale of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947 was a crowd-pleaser and received a rare "A+" CinemaScore from audiences. The positive word of mouth helped it easily eclipse the previous biggest opening for a baseball movie, which was $19.6 million pulled in by the 2006 comedy "Benchwarmers." The 2011 Brad Pitt movie "Moneyball" debuted with $19.5 million.
It also gave Warner Bros. its first hit of 2013. Despite winning the Best Picture Oscar with "Argo," this has been a tough year for the studio with its first five releases all underperforming. But "42" came in well over the expectations of analysts, who thought it might hit $20 million, by playing more broadly than expected. It played to a mature crowd -- 83 percent of its audience was over 25, with 45 percent between 25 and 49 -- but women made up a surprising 52 percent of the audience.
"Our advertising was perfect on this," Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman told TheWrap on Sunday. "This picture is more than entertainment, it's history, and our marketing team sold the emotion behind what was a very significant time for our country."
Legendary has produced blockbuster movies from "300" to "The Dark Knight" to "The Hangover" for Warner Bros., but "42" was a passion project of Legendary chief executive Thomas Tull, who produced. It was written and directed by Bruce Helgeland, the veteran writer behind "L.A. Confidential," and "Mystic River." Chadwick Boseman stars as Robinson, and Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the Dodgers executive who signed him. It's production budget was $38 million.
"We started out looking at this as a small film," Fellman said, "but when we saw what we had on our hands, we pressed the button and went wide with it." It was in 3,003 theaters this weekend, and Fellman said he'd be looking to expand next weekend.
The timing was right. The baseball season just started, and Monday marks the anniversary of Robinson's landmark. To mark the date, as they have since 2004, every player on every Major League team will wear the number that Robinson wore for the Brookyln Dodgers: 42, from which the film draws its title. Even First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a screening and invited the cast and crew to the White House prior to its debut.
"Scary Movie 5" played strongly with its target market teenagers -- 75 percent of the audience was under 25, 35 percent under 17 -- but didn't attract as many as the studio was hoping.
The movie played to a much younger demographic – 75 percent were under the age of 25, and 35% of those were under 17. And nearly half of the audience was Latino or African-American.
It was the first entry in the franchise since 2006 and failed to match the numbers put up by the earlier films, which all opened above $20 million – with three above $40 million – and averaged $107 million overall.
Franchise regulars Anna Farris, Regina King and Marlon Wayans weren't in this film, and Wayans starred in "Haunted House," an Open Road horror spoof that debuted with $18 million in January, and that may have cut into the audience. The stakes weren't that high for Weinstein; the film's production budget was under $20 million.
DreamWorks Animation's PG-rated "The Croods" continued to benefit from being the only real kids film in the marketplace and upped its domestic total to $142.5 million after four weeks for distributor Fox.
Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" raised its overall domestic total to $102.4 million in its third week.
Both "The Croods" and "G.I. Joe" have done most of their business overseas. "The Croods" added another $25 million from overseas this weekend as has now taken in more than $244 million abroad. "Retaliation" added $15 million and has brought in $168 million overseas, well ahead of the $152 million foreign haul of the original film, 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."