Back to IndieWire

Kevin Hart’s ‘Let Me Explain’ Shakes Up Concert Movie Box Office History On A List Dominated By Black Comics

Kevin Hart's 'Let Me Explain' Shakes Up Concert Movie Box Office History On A List Dominated By Black Comics

Using box office sites like Box Office Mojo and The Numbers as my primary research sources, I can say that Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, after its opening 5-day weekend box office gross of roughly $17.5 million, has become the 5th highest grossing stand-up concert movie released theatrically, since 1982 (I couldn’t locate any box office information for concert movies released before that year – again, emphasis on those that were released theatrically).

Although there are popular concert films like Bill Cosby: Himself, which was released in 1982, but I couldn’t find any box office information on it online, which I think is odd, considering that it’s considered one of the best stand-up comedy concert movies of all time by many.

But back to Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Keep in mind that its $17.5 million opening figure is just that – the amount it’s made thus far, after 5 days in release. Distributed by Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, that’s roughly $10 million more than his last concert film – Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain, also released by Codeblack Films – made throughout its entire 14-week theatrical run, which makes Let Me Explain’s 5-day return look all-that-more impressive!

It should blow way past that $17.5 million figure by the time it ends its theatrical run, weeks from now, assuming word of mouth is strong; and by all accounts, it is. It also has a 72% positively Fresh rating on movie review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Therefore, when it exits theaters for home video, expect the film’s cume box office to help move it up a slot or two, from its current #5 position on the list of top-grossing stand-up comedy concert movies released theatrically. It’ll definitely knock Martin Lawrence’s Runteldat out of its current 4th position.

So all signs point to what should be a massive hit for Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, relative to cost, as well as a bolstering of Kevin Hart’s box office strength. His upcoming slate of feature films, which is already a mile high, should see a boost – especially those that feature him in a leading capacity.

The 4 stand-up comedy concert films released in theaters that are currently ahead of Let Me Explain are (Columns include: title, total box office, widest theatrical count, and release date):

1   Eddie Murphy Raw     $50,504,655     1,494      12/18/87
2   The Original Kings of Comedy $38,182,790     1,082 8/18/00
3   Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip $36,299,720     1,277 3/12/82
4   Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat $19,184,820     774 8/2/02

Adjusted for inflation, those figures are: $100.4 million, $50.2 million, $85 million, and $24.3 million, respectively. So Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip, would actually take over the #2 slot, while Original Kings Of Comedy would slide down a notch to #3.

Let Me Explain opened on 876 screens, and will likely expand next weekend.

One very interesting statistic that I discovered while researching for this piece is that, of the top 10 highest grossing stand-up comedy films released in theaters (again, since 1982), 8 of them feature black comics, with films starring Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence and Kevin Hart dominating the list of 8. The Original Kings Of Comedy was a 4-man ticket, including Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac.

The two non-black comedians whose concert films round out the top 10 in the #9 and #10 slots are: Bette Midler’s Divine Madness and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian.

So what does all that mean? Specifically, why do comedy concert movies with black comics, released in theaters, tend to fare a lot better than those with non-black comedians? I’ve been mulling over that question since I started typing up this piece, but I can’t come up with what I feel is an assured answer – other than that some of these names, like Pryor and Murphy, are unquestionably, the most popular, most influential, and most wide-reaching of our time, with broad, crossover audience appeal. And, oh yeah, they were/are pretty damn funny too, with, Pryor especially, working trenchant social criticism into his comedy routines. 

And for that reason, in part, it could also be that, for black audiences, as former Congressman Walter Fauntroy put it in the 2009 documentary, Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy, humor is relied upon as a “tool of the spirit through which we cut a path through the wilderness of our despair.” In essence, we laugh to keep from crying, and so we flood movie theaters to see these social critics/humorists/comedians tell our truths (no matter how controversial) in a format that’s easier to swallow.

Or as Bill Cosby said, “you can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” 

But I’d love to read what your thoughts are on this, so feel free to share in the comments section below, and enlighten me.

Coming up for Kevin Hart, look for him in the dramedy, Ride Along early next year, which is just one of maybe half-a-dozen projects on his 2013/2014 slate. Others include the remake of About Last Night; the sequel to Think Like A ManGrudge Match (with Sylvester Stallone & Robert De Niro); Valet Guys (with Kevin James); the return of his Real Husbands of Hollywood (which is a hit for BET); Chris Rock’s upcoming dramedy, Finally Famous; a currently-untitled Screen Gems/Miramax collaboration from first-timer Jeremy Garelickthat will see The Book Of Mormon‘s Josh Gad, co-star with Hart; a Lionsgate/Codeblack project titled Quick & Easy (no plot details yet), and more…

It is indeed a great time to be Kevin Hart, and, as I’m sure Lionsgate and Codeblack Films would agree, it’s also a great time to be in the Kevin Hart business.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged ,


Hugh Betcha

4-Walling is where you rent the 4 walls of a theatre.

Hugh Betcha

I believe the reason no numbers are available re: the concert film 'Bill Cosby: Himself' may be due to the possibility that the producers 4-walled the film. 4-Walling is simply renting the theatres to show the movie and the producers get all of the proceeds minus the rental. Melvin Van Peebles used that same process for 'Sweet Sweetback' and he made nothing but bank.

Hugh Betcha

Jerry Seinfeld Comedian was not a concert film but a documentary about the process of creating comedy-from the vantage point of the successful comedians as well as the unsuccessful ones.


"So what does all that mean? Specifically, why do comedy concert movies with black comics, released in theaters, tend to fare a lot better than those with non-black comedians?" ~ Tambay O.

"Better get under cover, Sylvester. There's a storm blowin' up – a whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. Poor little kid, I hope she gets home all right." ~ Professor Marvel

Well, Professor Marvel was played by the actor Frank Morgan who also played the character The Wizard of Oz, who we all remember saying "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." But who remembers him saying "You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking"

What's my point?

Well, in a nutshell, this post is somewhat deceiving. So we might be the victims of disorganized thinking. On the surface, based on the above statistics it appears as if we can hoist the flag of victory, however, not so fast because the devil is in the details. The first detail is the notion that we've cornered the market on the emotion of "laughing". Second, Kevin Hart's 17.5 million is a paltry amount when compared to what's commonly considered as real box office success. Granted, when one factors in a meager budget it's something to cheer about, but don't hoist the trophy too soon.

In reference to "laughing" or "laughter", it's an emotion that all human share regardless of their race, culture or color. Consequently, it's not wise to adhere to the notion that blacks use and/or feel laughter any differently than other races. That's simply a preposterous suggestion. Laughing/Laughter is like opiates and endorphins in their abilities to produce feelings of well-being. White's cry when they feel pain, get depressed when life weighs them down, grieve when they lose a loved one and laugh when they find something to laugh about, just like blacks.

So when I hear someone suggest that we "flood" movies for any other reason than those attributed to white folks, I have to yell "PUMP THE BRAKES. THAT'S A MISLEADING AND LUDICROUS SUGGESTION?". And, there's a couple more details to look at.

Well, it's safe to say the overwhelming majority of those who bought tickets to the movies in question were black folks. Granted, there are some white's who enjoy black humor, but looking around the audience at the stand-up venues, one can't help but see wall to wall black folks. So I am suggesting the box office receipts are black dollars.

Now, on any given weekend white folks have a vast array of movies in which they can see folks who act and talk and look just like them. But on most weekends, black folks have to look far and wide to… well… you know… to see anybody that looks like them on the big screen. Therefore, when one does hit the screen, be he crying, dying or laughing, we might be able to "flood", or come together long enough to muster up a few million dollars at the box office.


Wow. Two big surprises on this list:

1. "Kings of Comedy" grossed so much less than "Eddie Murphy: Raw". I know that "Raw" is a classic. Has this list been adjusted for inflation, or are these the raw numbers?

2. Bette Midler? Wow. I would have never guessed. She really is a lady of many talents.

I definitely agree that people want to laugh to escape their problems. I also feel as if with regards to comedy African Americans are often the litmus test. If you can get several African American people to agree that something is funny, often the consensus is that the subject matter must be REALLY funny. We are the type of audience that will dead pan a comedian in a minute if we think the joke is dumb or unfunny. When we fall out laughing, you know that you have a winner, and these comedians are smart enough to bring their A game to these videos.

Chris Tucker is on tour now. Maybe he needs to get a video camera rolling if he hasn't already…….


Yes Comedy, especially Black Comedy is an escape from our worries, even if for a couple of hours. Laughter, Singing, Dancing is what kept us and keeps us sane.

Black Comics are the bomb because they speak the truth in a way it doesn't hurt so bad for the ones who can't handle it in a normal conversation…. You know who you are.

Don't get me wrong, White comics are cunning too, but I don't find myself crying and gasping for air like I do with Black comics.

I remember on an episode of Sanford and Son… I'm about to cry just thinking about it. Fred had just gotten into an argument with Esther, and he was telling someone about how Elizabeth was the prettiest person in her Family. He said that his In-laws (mainly Esther) was the ugliest family that ever came out of Watts, then they moved to St. Louis and took up Championship… Oh Lord, I'm crying. Yeah a Sitcom, but Redd Foxx, a Great Comedian.

Dankwa Brooks

1. Black folk keep ALL THE WAY REAL. I can't think of anything that's off topic for us maybe only gay slurs, but they'll still joke about gay people.

2. Like Tambay stated Black Folk are usually on the low end of the economic scale and can make jokes out such inadequacy. If necessity is the mother of invention, poverty is a step child.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *