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‘42’ is a player at the box office in weekend debut

LOS ANGELES – Jackie Robinson beat the odds again this past weekend, as a film about the player who broke baseball’s color barrier outperformed expectations 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, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That figure far exceeded pre-release 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. The latest installment in the satirical horror franchise launched with an unimpressive $15.2 million, suggesting moviegoers have lost interest in the series that began 13 years ago.

Those who saw “42” loved it, assigning the film a rare perfect average grade of A-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That’s great news for Warner Bros. Nearly every film that has earned an A-plus, 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, both in suburbs and in cities. The picture drew an older crowd, however, with 59 percent of the audience over 35.

“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.

Films about baseball have had a mixed track record at the box office in recent years. Last fall, Clint Eastwood’s “Trouble With the Curve” flopped with $39 million worldwide. But in 2011, Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” earned a best picture nomination at the Oscars and grossed more than $110 million globally.

To date, the most successful film about the sport remains 1992’s “A League of Their Own,” the film about a women’s team that racked up $132.4 million.

With its disappointing opening, “Scary Movie 5” is likely to end up the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise.

The original was the most successful, 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 percent of the audience was younger than 25. The audience gave the picture an average grade of C-minus.

Asked whether the latest film’s lackluster debut meant the franchise had run its course, Erik Lomis, Weinstein Co.’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.”

Meanwhile, though Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion” doesn’t hit theaters in the U.S. and Canada until next weekend, it is off to a stellar start abroad, collecting $61.1 million from 52 foreign markets.

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