42 Perks Up Dull Box Office
By John Hamann
April 14, 2013
There is good news at the box office this weekend. It has more to do with 42’s success than Scary Movie 5’s failure, but let’s face it, both work in this context.
The new movies released this weekend were completely different to say the least. One of the openers is 42, the new Jackie Robinson biopic, which is old-fashioned, respectful of the hero at the center of the story, and necessary. The other is Scary Movie 5, which is in it for the money, distasteful, and is about as far away from necessary as it gets (yes, unnecessary doesn’t cut it). One is a feel good story; the other is 85 minutes of the worst kind of theft - stolen money during tough times. The good news is that this weekend the hero wins (unfortunately a rarity at the box office), as Jackie Robinson makes Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan look foolish.
Our number one movie of the weekend is 42, and the film represents a genre we haven’t seen in a while – the earnest-to-a-fault sports biopic. Released by Warner Bros. but made by Legendary Pictures (a well-named studio to release a Jackie Robinson biopic), 42 earned $9.1 million on Friday, and rode that success to a weekend gross of $27.3 million. Released to a quite wide 3,003 venues, the Brian Helgeland (writer of L.A. Confidential and Mystic River) directed flick had a strong venue average this weekend of $9,074. It had a decent weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.99 and earned an A+ Cinemascore, which could indicate strong legs may be in its future. It will provide strong counter-programming against the Tom Cruise flick Oblivion, which opens next weekend, and could still be drawing breath by the time Iron Man 3 shows up on May 3rd.
42 is reminiscent of films like Miracle, The Rookie, Remember the Titans and Seabiscuit, all of which were feel-good sports movies that centred on a true story. They also all had massive legs at the box office, as the central theme in those films, winning against massive diversity, gets people talking about what they’ve seen, and then other people want to feel like that as well. 42 does something that these other films did not. It opened bigger. The biggest opener of the movie mentioned was Seabiscuit, which took in $20.9 million over its opening weekend. These films are not about opening weekend, though. They seem to be made as a love letter to the central character, which in my mind creates the legs.
Seabiscuit had an opening-weekend-to-domestic-total multiplier of 5.8, The Rookie 4.42, Remember the Titans 5.5, and Miracle came in at 3.3 (come on, it was about hockey). With the opening weekend, 42 will now need less than a 4.0 multiplier to get it to $100 million, something that should be easily achieved. It cost only $40 million to make, and I love the fact that Legendary’s CEO, Thomas Tull, personally produced 42. The love for Robinson is seen in the trailer and the marketing materials, and that love seems to be engaging audiences.