With an estimated $9.1 million domestic take on Friday, 42 has exceeded our strong pre-release expectations to make history among baseball-themed movies at the box office.
The Friday figure topped the $6.7 million first-day take of Moneyball and blew past Trouble with the Curve's $4.17 million opening day. We're currently projecting a fantastic $28 million weekend debut for 42, topping The Benchwarmers ($19.7 million) and Moneyball ($19.5 million) as the best opening weekend ever for a baseball flick.
Even better news for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures is the film's "A+" CinemaScore. Audiences are clearly enjoying the film, and with a fairly dry release schedule ahead for adult patrons, that's great news for 42's longevity. While not completely locked yet due to the upcoming May blockbusters, we're not ruling out a $100+ million domestic run.
What went right? 42 capitalized on a number of factors leading up to it's successful debut. First and foremost, the true story of Jackie Robinson offers the kind of inspiring real life tale that has helped drive past box office successes like The Blind Side and Lincoln. The element of overcoming racial bias also fueled the success of The Help in 2011.
Featuring Harrison Ford in the supporting role of Brooklyn Dodgers exec Branch Rickey certainly didn't hurt the appeal to adult crowds either.
Timing was also key: WB kicked its marketing campaign into full gear with ads strategically placed during the World Baseball Classic in March, followed by the opening weeks of the Major League Baseball season this month. Tomorrow (Sunday)--by no coincidence--also happens to be Jackie Robinson Day. Part of that marketing campaign successfully integrated a modern feel through the use of Jay-Z's "Brooklyn We Go Hard".
The relatively weak slate of releases so far in 2013 also helped to make 42 a strong performer out of the gate. That being said, the film's pitch perfect marketing, family-friendly nature, and appeal to too-often ignored demographics made for stronger contributions. Overall, the film is achieving success on its own merits--a fitting tale for the legend of Jackie Robinson.
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The 42 trailer: