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By Hammad Zaidi | April 16, 2013

As I’m writing this article, the bombings at the Boston Marathon just happened. I don’t know how to fully express my sorrow over this, but I am sitting here tearing and I’m shell-shocked. I will say that my heart, prayers and warmest wishes go out to those who perished and were injured, as well as to their friends, families and loved ones. I wish I knew what more to say, but for now I’ll hope our world becomes a better place as soon as humanly possible.

As for today’s article, it’s sponsored by the number “42,” accompanied by the numbers $27,487,144, 3003, and the number #1.  We’re talking about the release of the film, “42,” which just came in #1 at the box office, by earning $27,487,144 on 3003 theatrical screens. The picture became the single biggest opening for a baseball movie in the history of American cinema, and with its A+ CinemaScore rating, this film could be headed for the sports film record books.

As you may know, “42” is about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. As a UCLA alumni and a big Dodgers fan, I’m pleased that “42” hit a grand slam on its opening weekend, because Jackie Robinson went to UCLA and played for the Dodgers. Thus, today we’re discussing the success of “42” and how it’s performing versus other sports films. So, without further adieu, let’s slide into “42.”

Opening Weekend Trumps Other Sports Film Releases
The first thing that jumps out at me about how well “42” did over the weekend, is how much more money it made that other major sports film releases. For example, “42” made $27,487,144 on 3,003 screens, which is a $9,153 per screen average. Conversely, “Moneyball,” which was released on September 25, 2011, made $19,501,302 on 2,993 screens, averaging only $6,516 per screen. Furthermore, “The Rookie,” which was released on March 31, 2002, earned $16,021,684 on 2,511 screens, earning a $6,380 per screen average. Lastly, “A League of Their Own,” released July 5, 1992, made $13,739,456 on 1,783 screens, earning $7,710 per screen. Thus, “42” is the clear winner on both opening weekend box office total and per screen average, which means that this film is off to a solid start.

Saturday Increase Suggests Strong Word of Mouth
“42” made $9,061,823 on Friday, April 12, but then leaped to earning $11,340,057 on Saturday, April 13. That’s a 25.1% increase from Friday to Saturday, which clearly suggests a strong word of mouth. As for Sunday’s numbers, “42” earned $7,085,264, which is a 37.5% decrease from Saturday’s high point of $11,340,057. Traditionally, Sunday’s box office tends to be lower than Friday’s and Saturdays, so seeing a lower number on Sunday is no cause for concern.

“42” Scored Bigger Than “Scary Movie 5”
“Scary Movie 5” sunk over the weekend, earning $14,157,367 on 3,402 screens. That’s an average of $4,161.48 per screen. Since “Scary Movie 5” only earned about half the box office of “42,” even though it was released on more screens than “42,” the “Scary Movie” franchise is most likely over, and the sports drama genre may have resurged.

Production Budget Versus Other Sports Films
“42” has a $40 million dollar budget, which is reasonable in 2013 numbers, considering that “A League of Their Own” had a $40 million dollar budget in 1992, and “Moneyball” had a $50 million dollar budget in 2011. Only  “Rookie” (2002) had a smaller budget, with $22 million. Thus, while $40 million may seem like a hefty budget, it’s actually right in line with other major sports film releases.

How Long is This Movie, Anyway?
One interesting thing is that of the four sports related films analyzed and compared in this article, all of them are within three minutes of running time from each other. Consider this:

“A League of Their Own” (1992) – Running Time: 2:08

“The Rookie” (2002) – Running Time: 2:09

“Moneyball” (2011) – Running Time: 2:06

“42” (2013) – Running Time: 2:08

Thus, slighter over two hours (including credits) is the running time that best serves sports dramas.

Side Note:  Just because sports films tend to be two-hours plus, doesn’t mean you can turn in a sports-related script. Sports films tend to be long, because they are “star vehicles” and hence, are doused with “A list” stars.  Naturally, audiences will watch an “A list star” on screen for two hours. But, unless your script is destined to become an A list, studio driven piece, (which it may well be), it behooves you to keep your script under 110 pages.

Second Week of Release Will Decide the Fate of “42”
When researching the previous three sports films analyzed in today’s article, how the film performed in the second week dictated how the picture would fare. For example, “A League of Their Own” only dropped 18.3% in week two, and that picture went on to earn $107,533,928 at the domestic box office. “The Rookie” dropped 39.9% at the box office in week two, and it wound up earning $75,600,072 domestically, while “Moneyball” dropped 39.2% in week two, and wound up making $75,605,492 domestically. Thus, we can assume that if “42” has less than a 20% drop in week two; it’s destined for a $100 million dollar plus box office. But, if “42” has a drop off of closer to 40% in week two, it’s domestic box office will stagger and wind up far closer to the $75 million dollar range.

Okay, filmmakers. I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next week. In the interim, stay safe, and please send your warmest wishes to the victims and injured people of the Boston Marathon bombings.

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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  1. Rajiv Pandit says:

    It would help if you compared box office grosses based on current dollars or tickets sold. Comparing naked grosses doesn’t take into account inflation, but at least number of tickets sold would be a fair comparison of the popularity of given films released in different decades.

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