Here's an odd statistic: Despite baseball being theoretically America's national past time and being the subject of any number of feature films over the decades, not a single baseball-themed film has ever opened at over $20 million. Not until today that is, when the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 (review HERE) opened with a surprisingly robust $27.3 million. Not only is that the biggest baseball opening weekend on record, it's the biggest baseball-themed opening weekend even when adjusted for inflation (in 2013 dollars, A League of Their Own has a debut of $26.6 million). This is good news for the somewhat beleaguered Warner Bros, which has seen the disappointing returns for Bullet to the Head, Beautiful Creatures, and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (all well under $25 million in domestic totals). The film scored a rock-solid 3.0x weekend multiplier and a somewhat rare A+ score from the audience polling service CinemaScore. The film played 52% male and 83% 25-and-older. So yeah, the $38 million production is likely going to have long legs at least for the month of April with a trip over the $100 million mark a genuine possibility.
It's also going to have a very healthy post-theatrical life, becoming a convenient choice for school viewing and a lifetime of play on TNT. Alas, because stars Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie are African American, their stock won't rise much despite the film's success as there are all-too few high profile roles in mainstream studio pictures for black actors not named Will Smith or Denzel Washington. Idris Elba seems to have found a niche in sci-fi ensembles and Anthony Mackie has become the go-to token black guy, but there's a reason so many actors of color (especially actresses, natch) end up working for Tyler Perry. But director Brian Helgeland will possibly see his name attached to more projects as a result, although probably not the theoretical Black Panther that Marvel keeps finding reasons not to make. I don't mean to be grouchy about this, but there is no small irony in a film about a black man breaking through baseball's color barrier where the black actors involved will all struggle to find quality work because there is such an obvious glass ceiling for non-white and especially non-whites of the female variety. What this film's success *should* again prove is that there is a real and vibrant audience for mainstream films involving African Americans aside from just the Tyler Perry franchise. Maybe this time the studios will take notice?
Scary Movie 5 somewhat tanked on the same weekend as 42 soared. $15.2 million isn't terrible for a film that cost $20 million, but this is a franchise where three of the four prior entries opened with over $40 million. The Scary Movie franchise started out as a horror movie spoof series for the Wayans Bros. The first Scary Movie opened with $42 million back in July 2000, a record for an R-rated debut at the time, and ended its run with $157 million. But after the second film opened with "just" $20 million and grossed just $72 million, the Weinsteins basically took the series away from the Wayans Bros. and turned it into a more traditional franchise, IE with lots of white people and a few token black characters. The last two installments, from 2003 and 2006 respectively, both opened with over $40 million. But seven years is a long time, and audiences obviously didn't miss the series (in that time, the Friedberg/Seltzer would-be parodies have come and gone). This is where the irony comes in.
The rest is all holdover news. There were three major expansions from art house to the multiplexes, and they arguably cannibalized each other in the process. The Ryan Gosling/Bradley Cooper father-son drama The Place Beyond the Pines went to 516 screens and ended its semi-wide debut weekend with $4.1 million. The $15 million drama has earned $5.5 million thus far. The Danny Boyle's Trance also went semi-wide, on 438 screens but earned just $925,000 million for its troubles. Robert Redford's The Company You Keep expanded to 41 screens and earned $310,000 in its second weekend. Upstream Color (which is a mainstream thriller compared to To the Wonder) expanded to eleven screens and earned $74,140. In multiplex holdover news, Jurassic Park 3D earned another $8.8 million, down 53% for what was a pretty obvious one-weekend wonder. Still, with an additional $31 million in the bank, the film might have *just* enough steam to push its domestic total over $400 million, to say nothing of probable overseas booty (related essay). The Croods earned another $13.2 million, bringing its domestic total up to $142.5 million and well-over $350 million worldwide (related essay).