BREAKING: Universal Pictures has found its James Brown. They’ve set Chadwick Boseman, who just played iconic Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson in 42. The Help‘s Tate Taylor is directing the film. Imagine Entertainment‘s Brian Grazer is producing the film with another musical icon, Mick Jagger. The film will be a co-production between Jagged Films, based on a screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth. Grazer and Jagger will produce along with Jagged’s Victoria Pearman and Imagine’s Erica Huggins. Universal signed on recently. The story charts a young boy’s rise from extreme poverty and violence to become The Godfather Of Soul, one of the most influential black artists in history whose career spanned six decades. Grazer started the project at a time when the singer himself was an active part in its development, before he died in late 2006.
Almost exactly one year ago, Fox Searchlight released Beasts Of The Southern Wild. The Sundance sensation was significant in many ways, but it also stood out as the only 2012 Best Picture Oscar nominee to have been released in theatres in the definitely NOT Oscar-friendly first half of the year — and coming at the tail end of June it made that distinction by the skin of its teeth. The fact is, in Oscar’s modern era at least, it’s just not wise to risk a release in the first half of the eligibility year if you want to have a serious shot at Best Picture or other major Oscars. In the last five years only seven films have managed to buck the trend (Hurt Locker and Up in June 2009; Winter’s Bone and Toy Story 3 in June 2010; and Midnight In Paris and The Tree Of Life in May 2011 were the others), and that’s only because the Academy doubled its potential Best Pic noms from five to 10. In 2008, the last year there were only five nominees, no film was nominated in the top category that wasn’t released in the second half of the year.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and the long list of Oscar’s Best Picture winners have included early-release films that forced voters to have longer memories: Hurt Locker, Crash (May 2005), Gladiator (May 2000), Braveheart (May 1995) and Silence Of The Lambs (February 1991). The latter was particularly impressive since you would have to go back to Patton in 1970, during Hollywood’s road show era where films played a year on a single screen, to find another Best Pic winner released as early as February. That one definitely went against the grain of thinking in the modern era of Oscar campaigns.
So with the 2013 Oscar race hitting the halfway point this week, and assuming Friday’s crop of The Heat and White House Down are not Best Pic caliber, is there anything that has hit theatres pre-July that looms as a serious Best Picture contender? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
SUNDAY, 5TH UPDATE: Exit polling for Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros’ 42 showed the audience composition was males 48%/females 52%; under age 25 was 17%, age 25 and up 83% (with a predominantly older audience), and the main reason for attending the movie was subject matter 84%. A Warner Bros exec tells me: “While we do not poll race breakdown, I can tell you we performed extremely well in all the large urban markets. But the highest grossing theaters were the country’s most commercial screens.” Pic’s $9.1M Friday opening received an impressive +25% Saturday bump to $11.3M for what should be a greatly overperforming $27.3M weekend and #1. Dimension Films’ Scary Movie 5 for The Weinstein Company went up slightly (+9%) from Friday’s weak $5.5M debut to Saturday’s $6.0M for a $15.1M weekend that’s not even 38% of what the franchise’s fourquel opening grossed. Now that schoolkids and colleges are back in class, the domestic box office has understandably cooled – and the weekend looks on par with last year’s. Top Ten list below.
The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 (3,003 theaters) nicely overperformed tracking which was in the mid-teens for an original movie about race and baseball with no hot stars. (Granted Harrison Ford is a legend but not box office nowadays.) The opening number is a record for a baseball flick in terms of straight dollars, topping the $19.5M debut of 2011′s Moneyball. Even factoring in higher ticket prices and inflation, the $13.7M debut of 1992′s A League Of Their Own would have been on par with 42. The moderately budgeted film ($38M) received an ‘A+’ CinemaScore which will help word of mouth. Grosses on MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day – which is April 15 - when every player wears Robinson’s #42, could even stay level because of the attention. In addition to the $38M marketing spend, the film has generated a ton of national media and awareness that didn’t cost any money. “Just watching the film’s box office growing at a rapid pace all day,” a Warner Bros exec gushed on Friday. “Great news for Thomas Tull and his team at Legendary.” (Question still remains whether financier/filmmaker Tull’s Legendary will exit Warner Bros, or vice versa. But Sue Kroll’s marketing did well by him.) Still, I wondered whether Academy Award winning writer-director Brian Helgeland’s soft-focus storyline would turn off moviegoers to Thomas Tull‘s passion project, especially without the street cred of African-American filmmakers involved. But no. ‘All you can do is put these things together in the way you think is best,” Tull told me Thursday. Instead he relied on Rachel Robinson. ”Her voice helped us with authenticity. That was the person who lived it,” Tull said. “And that was a really important story for us to tell.” Tull does admit that, had Rachel herself not been so involved, there may have been more focus on the tough stuff. The filmmakers wound up with the highest testing movie that Legendary has ever had. Rachel Robinson had been promised over the last two decades that Hollywood would make this movie – and never did. Then, at 90 years old, she was approached by Tull two years ago. ”She looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Are you going to make this movie?’ and I said we’d make it happen,’” Tull recalled.
Far, far, far behind in #2 was Scary Movie 5 (3,402 theaters) which bombed badly considering that 2006′s Scary Movie 4 opened to $40.2M from 3,202 theaters. This franchise has run out of steam. For one thing, there’s no Anna Faris or Regina Hall who both starred in all four earlier installments. But it does have the nauseating casting of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen playing themselves. (Audible groan…) Once again, Dimension just isn’t bringing the box office heat to Weinstein Co grosses like it did to the old Miramax. Bringing back the Scream and Spy Kids franchises produced only 1/2 and 1/3 of the originals’ openings. This fifth Scary Movie installment which cost $19.5M is directed by Malcolm D. Lee and written by/produced by David Zucker who also directed 3 and 4. Dimension really needs to get off its butt and incubate new low-budget genre storylines.
Here’s the Top Ten list based on weekend estimates:
1. 42 (Legendary/Warner Bros) NEW [Runs 3,003] PG13
Friday $9.1M, Saturday $11.3M, Weekend $27.3M
2. Scary Movie 5 (Dimension/Weinstein) NEW [Runs 3,402] PG13
Friday $5.5M, Saturday $6.0M, Weekend $15.1M
Listen to (and share) episode 21 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Our awards columnist and host David Bloom talk about the passing of Roger Ebert, perhaps the most influential film critic ever, and what it means to be a film critic in an era of Rotten Tomatoes, Reddit and Twitter. Pete also looks at what he thinks is a lock for the Cannes Film Festival, a film that will be vying for Emmy rather than Oscar glory, and reports on Tom Cruise’s premiere-night effort to help ensure the name of sci-fi epic Oblivion, opening overseas this weekend, doesn’t become the film’s fate. Pete also talks about this week’s movie debuts as the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 swings for the fences, and platform releases Disconnect and To The Wonder by director Terence Malick try to connect with audiences.
Jackie Robinson Biopic ’42′ Screening At White House Tonight; Harrison Ford & Thomas Tull In Attendance
Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros’ story of the man who broke pro baseball’s color barrier is headed to the White House. President Obama will host the producers, crew and stars of 42 for a screening at 5:35 PM ET in the Executive Mansion’s Private Theatre. Legendary boss Thomas Tull, director Brian Helgeland, and stars Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman will be in attendance. Boseman plays Jackie Robinson in the film, which tells his life story and of his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Ford plays Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson will also be at the screening tonight. Robinson, Tull and the cast joined First Lady Michelle Obama earlier today at an interactive student workshop at the White House looking at the legacy of the legendary ballplayer. 42 opens April 12.
EXCLUSIVE: The Kill Hole, starring Sons Of Anarchy‘s Tory Kittles as an ex-Marine with a vendetta and 42‘s Chadwick Boseman as the Iraq veteran tasked with bringing him down, will open theatrically in New York on March 15 via RBC Films. A DVD release will follow April 9. The indie action-thriller from first-time director Mischa Webley aims to take advantage of Boseman’s mainstream debut as Jackie Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 42, which Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are releasing April 12. But the pic’s PR push seems to also capitalize on the pic’s apparent parallels to ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner, whose vendetta against the LA Police Department led to the murders of four people, a manhunt, and culminated this week in a nationally televised gunfight standoff in the Southern California mountains.
Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures have released the first trailer for the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 that opens April 12, 2013. Chadwick Boseman plays the famed second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers who broke pro baseball’s color barrier. Harrison Ford plays team general manager Branch Rickey. Brian Helgeland …
Lucas Black has joined the cast of the Gus Van Sant-directed Promised Land for Focus Features. He’ll also play a role in the Brian …
Deadline revealed yesterday that Legendary Pictures was courting Harrison Ford to play Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers GM who with Jackie Robinson broke the color line in baseball in 1947. Legendary has announced that Ford is set, and that …
EXCLUSIVE: Legendary Pictures is courting Harrison Ford to play Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in 42, the Brian Helgeland-directed chronicle of how Rickey and Jackie Robinson eradicated segregation in baseball in 1947. Helgeland has written a script after Legendary jump-started a long dormant project in collaboration with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson. The film’s being produced by Legendary’s Thomas Tull with Jon Jashni and Dick Cook exec producing. The film will be released by Warner Bros.
Numerous top actors have been mentioned for the Rickey role, including Robert Redford, who was attached a decade ago when the project was first contemplated. Now, it looks like it’s Ford’s role if he wants it, and while he has been mentioned for a number of projects including Ender’s Game, here he would be playing the man who with Robinson was the catalyst for the most groundbreaking event to occur in sports in the 20th century.
It wasn’t enough to decide to break baseball’s color line; Rickey had to search for the right player and qualities that went beyond hitting, fielding, speed and a throwing arm.