Jackie Robinson beat the odds again this weekend, as a film about the player who broke baseball's color barrier outperformed at the box office.
"42," which tells the story of the first African American Major League Baseball player, debuted with a robust $27.3 million this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That figure far exceeded prerelease industry polling, which suggested the film would start off with about $21 million.
The weekend's other new film, "Scary Movie 5," didn't have as much success at the box office. The fifth installment in the satirical horror franchise launched with an unimpressive $15.2 million, indicating moviegoers have lost interest in the series that began 13 years ago.
Those who saw "42" this weekend loved it, assigning the film a rare perfect average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That's great news for Warner Bros. Nearly every film that has earned an A+, including such movies as "The Avengers" and "The Help," has gone on to become a commercial hit.
"42" attracted both genders in nearly equal measure and played well with all races in suburbs and in cities. The picture drew an older crowd, however, with 59% of the audience over 35. Dan Fellman, the studio's president of domestic distribution, said that indicated the resonance of Robinson's tale with those familiar with his story.
"Most adults remember what he accomplished and the purpose of what he did for not only baseball but the betterment of mankind," Fellman said. "I think the story is proving to be a lot greater than many people had anticipated."
"42," which stars Hollywood newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Robinson alongside Harrison Ford, was financed by Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures for $40 million. The movie is set in 1947, when Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, illuminating the country's racial tensions.
With its disappointing opening, "Scary Movie 5" is likely to end up the lowest-grossing entry in the horror franchise. The original was the most successful in the series, collecting $157 million domestically in 2000, and even the fourth film made $90.7 million seven years ago. The latest entry -- which features cameos from tabloid mainstays Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan -- was financed by Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films for about $20 million.
The opening weekend crowd was overwhelmingly young: 75% of the audience was under the age of 25. But the audience gave the picture an average grade of C-.
Asked whether the latest film's lackluster debut meant the franchise had run its course, Erik Lomis, the independent studio's president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment, said he hoped not.
"There's always going to be great stuff to poke fun at," he said of the series, which spoofs popular horror films. "Are we OK with this opening? Yeah, we're OK with it. We're not over the moon."