Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend Box Office: '42' Sets Record, 'Scary Movie 5' Bombs, 'Oblivion' Launches Overseas

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 HeadBeautiful 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.

Exactly four months ago, Marlon Wayans wrote and produced his own horror parody, A Haunted House, which opened with $18 million and went on to gross $40 million on a $3 million budget.  That film, which was partially brought about after the Wayans lost the Scary Movie series, is getting a sequel.  At a cost of $20 million, Scary Movie 5 will be lucky to cross $35 million after debuting with a relatively mediocre for this franchise $15.2 million.  More irony, Scary Movie 5 is directed by Malcolm D. Lee, an African American filmmaker who helmed the underrated  blaxplotation satire Undercover Brother eleven years ago (to quote a line from a deleted scene from Sarah Polley's superb Away From Her, life is... complicated).  Other than that, there isn't much to say about it.  Everyone knew it was going to be terrible, Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan aren't stars in the 'get your butts into the seats' variety, it will make money by virtue of its low cost, and Ashley Tisdale deserves much better.

The big new release overseas was the foreign debut in 52 international markets of the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller Oblivion.  The film debuts in America next weekend (you'll be hearing that a lot this summer) and was supposed to have an IMAX-only release this weekend before it was abruptly cancelled.  Anyway, it adventure earned a rather impressive $61.1 million overseas, meaning that it's well on its way to long term profitability.   Kudos to Universal for keeping the budget at $120 million.  I'm seeing this one on Monday so you should have my review on Tuesday. The major limited release debut was the 18 screen release of Terrence Malick's To the Wonder. Like pretty much all of Magnolia's releases, the Ben Affleck/Rachel McAdams romantic drama went out on Video On Demand too, although most of their releases are available on VOD about a month before theatrical, so this day-and-date simultaneous release is somewhat noteworthy.  The film earned $130,000 for a $7,222 per-screen average, which is again mitigated by the option to see this um... minor Malick effort at home. Short review: I liked The Tree of Life a lot better.

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).

G.I. Joe: Retaliation dropped harder this weekend, dropping 50% in weekend and earning another $10 million.  Still, the film pushed itself over $100 million domestic and is still burning up the overseas box office charts.  With $168 million overseas, it's already topped the foreign total of The Rise of Cobra with China still to come (related essay).  Last weekend's top film, Evil Dead, tumbled a somewhat expected 64%, giving it a new domestic cume of $41 million.  It's already topped Texas Chainsaw 3D but won't do much more than twice its $25 million opening weekend.  Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor earned another $4 million this weekend bringing its total to a healthy $45 million.  Oz: The Great and Powerful is at $219 million and will likely top out at around $230 million domestic.  It's a massive hit, even if the budget means it still has some work to do overseas even with its current $471 million global gross.  Finally, Olympus Has Fallen earned another $7.2 million in its fourth weekend, pushing it over the $80 million mark.

Join us next weekend for the American debut of Oblivion and basically not much else.  I'm sure Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem will burn up the box office on its 300 screens, although I'm glad its going somewhat wide on principle. My wife wants to see it, she being a horror junkie and all.  Fun fact for new readers: Our first date was an opening night showing of Saw II.  Her choice.

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