Different genres duke it out in the box office

It was another robust weekend at the box office as four films managed to earn more than $18 million each, with the Evil Dead remake hauling in $25.7 million —which is more than the rest of the franchise combined.

Though Evil Dead didn’t turn out to be the most terrifying film ever (as it declared on its poster), it’s certainly a home run for FilmDistrict; if this leads to the return of Ash, then all the better.

Universal Pictures should be happy with the $18.6 million that the 3D update of Jurassic Park brought in, as it shows the 20-year-old property still has staying power. This bodes well for Jurassic Park IV, which is scheduled to debut in June 2014. The film still only snagged the No. 4 spot for the weekend, as both G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Croods had great post-Easter drop-offs.

This weekend we see two films that couldn’t be any more different: 42, the biopic of Jackie Robinson, and Scary Movie 5, the long-gestating sequel to the horror-spoof franchise.

42, directed by Brian Helgeland, stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, who was the first black player to break the baseball color line. The film itself focuses on the relationship between Robinson and Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the team executive of the Brooklyn Dodgers who brought the second baseman over from the Montreal Royals in 1947.

There’s truly not enough that can be written about the enormous cultural impact that Robinson brought to the game of baseball and ultimately to American society. Robinson was able to win over the hecklers and overcome prominent racial tension when he proved himself to be not only a good player, but one of the most exceptional baseball players to play the game.

In fact, he left such an impact on the MLB that it adopted Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 on which all players wear the number 42. That number remains the only universally retired number in American professional sports.

The MLB and Warner Bros. have used this synergy to its fullest with the movie’s marketing playing prominently through the league, which opened its season just last week.

There are some factors going against the film, though that’s through no fault of the importance of Robinson. It’s just that baseball movies hardly ever have a huge opening. In fact, the highest opening for a baseball movie is 2011’s Moneyball. The simple fact that baseball isn’t as popular as it once was doesn’t help either.

This film does have more going for it than Moneyball, which had the benefit of several award nominations and a much bigger star in Brad Pitt at the forefront but didn’t have nearly as historically significant of a plot as 42 does. If there were any sports figure you could open big with, it’d be Jackie Robinson, with the release coming around the start of the MLB season, 42  should open at $20 million.

Also coming out this weekend is Scary Movie 5, which arrives seven years after the last one. This one uses the Paranormal Activity franchise as the basis of its “plot,” but it also lampoons films ranging from Black Swan to Inception — not to mention the real-life exploits of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, who star as themselves in the film.

A lot has changed in the last seven years since Scary Movie 4 made more than $90 million in 2006. After a series of absolutely dismal films such as Epic Movie, Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans, the spoof genre is as close to dead as it’s ever been. In fact, the highest grossing spoof since the fourth Scary Movie was A Haunted House, which came out just three months ago and parodied the same movies that this one is lampooning.

Because of its proximity to A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 seems even worse for wear. The film also seems to be falling under the same trappings that those awful spoofs had. Rather than actually setting up a joke at the expense of a property, all they seem to be doing is just showing you a cultural reference and leaving that as the whole punchline (“Hey audience! Remember Black Swan? … That’s the joke”). It’s more groan-inducing than laugh-inspiring.

The spoof genre is on life support and this film might be the last straw.  An opening more than $10 million would only happen if people are truly that bored over the weekend, or if they think that Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan don’t get enough attention from the public.


Robert Calcagno is a second-year graduate student in the School of Cinematic Arts pursing an MFA in animation. His column “Box Office Beat” runs Fridays.