WINNER OF THE WEEK: Chadwick Boseman. Last weekend, you’d never heard of him. This weekend, he’s the star of the top movie on the box office chart, playing Jackie Robinson in 42. The biopic of the baseball and civil rights hero did better than expected, earning an estimated $27.3 million, the best opening ever for a baseball movie. It’s a genre that doesn’t usually swing for the fences at the box office – pundits expected the film to open no higher than $20 million – so 42’s overperformance comes as a nice surprise to Boseman, to Warner Bros. (in need of a hit after last month’s big flop Jack the Giant Slayer), and to 70-year-old co-star Harrison Ford (who hasn’t hit any box office homers lately). Credit the timeless and inspirational appeal of Robinson’s life story, plus strong word-of-mouth (measured by a rare A+ from CinemaScore), good timing (at the beginning of baseball season), stellar marketing – Ford helped sell the movie to older audiences, while Jay-Z’s anthem “Brooklyn (We Go Hard)” sold it to those born well after Robinson’s death in 1972 – and surprising appeal to women, who the studio estimated made up 52 percent of the audience.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Horror. Or at least tongue-in-cheek horror, as represented by Scary Movie 5. The chiller spoof opened in second place with an estimated $15.2 million, or about a third of what the franchise used to earn in its heyday. Of all the spoof movies over the last decade and a half, this had been the most durable franchise (indeed, the initial Scary Movie in 2000 kicked off the current wave of genre parody films), but it’s been seven years since the last installment, long enough to have passed out of memory of the young target audience, and long enough for franchise mainstay Anna Faris to have moved on to bigger and better things. Having tabloid fixtures Charlie Sheen (who also starred in Scary Movie 3) and Lindsay Lohan aboard didn’t exactly attract rubberneckers. (After all, is there a living soul outside the admittedly metastasizing Kardashian-Jenner family who went to see the new Tyler Perry movie just because Kim K. is in it?) Plus, January’s modest hit A Haunted House (a horror spoof from Scary Movie franchise co-creator Marlon Wayans) may have stolen some of Scary Movie 5’s thunder. Or maybe the whole spoof trend is just played out. In any case, the budget for this movie was low ($20 million) and so were expectations (about an $18 million opening), but the fact that the movie couldn’t even scare up that figure doesn’t bode well for a Scary Movie 6.
Another wry horror film, the remake of Evil Dead, stumbled this week as well. Having debuted on top a week ago, it lost 63 percent of its business and fell to fifth place with estimated earnings of $9.5 million, for a two-week total of $41.5 million. The scary dinosaurs of the 3D reissue of Jurassic Park also lost more than half of last weekend’s debut take, sliding to sixth place on estimated earnings of $8.8 million. On the other hand, family cartoon The Croods held up well, taking in another estimated $13.2 million, good for third place and a four-week total of $142.5 million. In fourth place, G.I. Joe: Retaliation earned an estimated $10.8 million, bringing its three-week total to $102.4 million.
‘PINE’-FRESH: 42 wasn’t the only movie this weekend that did well among both older audiences and young adults. In limited release, crime saga The Place Beyond the Pines expanded from 30 theaters to 514 and cracked the top 10 at Number 10 with an estimated $4.1 million. According to distributor Focus, the movie is playing well among both older adults (who like well-reviewed crime dramas) and college-aged viewers (who love them some Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper). In three weeks, it’s earned $5.5 million.
Also expanding to larger limited releases, with mixed results, were Danny Boyle’s crime drama Trance and Robert Redford’s thriller The Company You Keep, both in their second weekends. Trance finished at Number 13 with an estimated $925,000 while Company came in four slots further down with an estimated $311,000. Then again, Trance is playing on 438 screens to Company’s 41 screens, so Trance is earning just $2,112 per screen, compared to $7,585 for Company. Those numbers suggest that Trance won’t have long legs, and that Company could overtake it. They also suggest that the audience for grown-up, smart thrillers, at least at the art house, is only so big. Legendary base-stealer Jackie Robinson may have stolen the potential fan base for all three of these thoughtful dramas.