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‘The Upside’ Opened at #1, But $20 Million Is Low for a Kevin Hart Movie

Yes, Oscars controversy could be to blame — but other factors are more likely. In any case, STX now has its first #1 at the box office.

"The Upside"

“The Upside”

OneMedia

The opening weekend of “The Upside,” the Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston remake of the worldwide French hit “Intouchables,” ended the three-week reign of “Aquaman.” It made just over of $20 million — besting estimates — and comes after a few weeks of controversy for Hart that suggested the long-delayed film might take a hit.

the upside

“The Upside”

The odd-couple pairing of a wealthy and paraplegic New Yorker and the ex-con hired to care for him is a curious inverse of “Green Book.” (Did the success of “Intouchables,” particularly its huge international appeal, help get Peter Farrelly’s film a green light?)

Initially a Weinstein film, it premiered to mixed critical response at Toronto 2017, with plans for an early 2018 opening upended by the company’s demise. Its pickup by STX, a totally capable distributor with access to top theaters, still suggested to some a limit to its, shall we say, upside. The company has had several successes, but only one opening over $20 million (“Bad Moms” in 2016, around $24 million). And Hart’s promo tours for the film got more attention for his speaking out on past comedy routines and how their homophobic content cost him his Oscar gig as much as this film.

Here’s the mixed results: It is STX’s first #1 film, it did exceed expectations (in part because STX is more targeted and thrifty with its marketing), it opened on what is usually a weak weekend. The counterargument is that it is on the low side for Hart comedies open. The most recent, “Night School,” opened at $24 million. That followed a string of three — “Get Hard,” “Ride Along 2,” and “Central Intelligence” — that opened at $35 million or more.

However, the film appears to have underperformed among African-American audiences, constituting about 25 percent of the ticket buyers. (Studios vary in reporting racial breakdowns, but some of his past hits have been 50 percent African-American). The lack of a co-star of equal awareness (Cranston’s core appeal lies with older white adults) and the domestic success of its original coming from mostly specialized audiences both could be a factor. Its ‘A’ Cinemascore could suggest some life ahead.

“A Dog’s Way Home”

Sony Pictures Entertainment

The heart-tugging family release “A Dog’s Way Home” came in at the low end among similar canine-oriented stories. Both it and “The Upside” opened a week before the upcoming holiday weekend, when they might have been expected to be released. This comes in part because the later MLK Day allows for an earlier weekend to launch a film and the possibility of advance word of mouth. It also got both films out of the way of the expected dominance of “Glass” next week. Sony managed to have three of the top five films, including last week’s opener “Escape Room” and the ongoing “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” That speaks to the sudden falloff in intensity of moviegoing and several holiday films already passing their expiration dates.

A third opener sci-fi thriller “Replicas,” starring Keanu Reeves, manage only $2.5 million in 2,329 theaters. People are increasingly savvy in their abilities to sniff out nonstarter releases.

Aquaman trailer Jason Momoa

“Aquaman”

Warner Bros.

“Aquaman” may have lost the #1 spot, but it also passed the $1 billion mark worldwide. Over 70 percent of that comes from overseas (and Japan hasn’t even opened yet). It is now the biggest domestic performer among films released in the second half of 2018 (edging out “The Grinch”), and should end up #5 overall by the time it finishes (somewhere over $325 million).

Last weekend’s sole opener “Escape Room” dropped a normal 51 percent for a routine horror entry. With a $9 million budget and the world still to play, it is a good result for Sony. The 31 percent drop for their “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is even happier. It is nearly $150 million here, the same overseas, with more to come.

“Mary Poppins Returns” took a worrisome 54 percent drop. Its domestic and international returns are similarly about evenly divided and around $300 million. But for a $130 million-budgeted film, and one they hope to continue as a franchise, it still is weaker than they hoped.

“Bumblebee” dropped nearly as much, and cost as much. But because of its much bigger foreign appeal, it’s in better shape. In really great shape is Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” which has increased in theater count each of its five weeks, to the point where it had the second biggest count this weekend. It is now over $90 million, with virtually no foreign yet.

"Bohemian Rhapsody"

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

20th Century Fox

Overall, however, this weekend wasn’t impressive: Grosses fell a third — about $40 million — from the same date last year. However, last year brought MLK Day six days earlier. So the cumulative result of next week and the expected strong opening of “Glass” will tell us far more than about 2019 than results so far, which are down over 11 percent.

A host of Golden Globe standouts showed in many theaters this weekend. “Vice” lost a third of its theaters, but held on to tenth place. How much a boost its Oscar nomination haul will bring remains to be seen.

But the more interesting story is how “Bohemian Rhapsody,” way late in its release, managed to go up 35 percent, placing just behind “Vice.” The film refuses to die, and with its home availability weeks away looks a good bet to surpass even “A Star Is Born” (it is now only $5 million behind.)

The Top Ten

1. The Upside (STX) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 44; est. budget: $37 million

$20,400,000 in 3,080 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,623; Cumulative: $20,400,000

2. Aquaman (Warner Bros.) Week 4 – Last weekend #1

$17,625,000 (-44%) in 3,863 theaters (-321); PTA: $4,469; Cumulative: $287,862,000

3. A Dog’s Way Home (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 50; est. budget: $18 million

$11,300,000 in 3,090 theaters; PTA: $3,657; Cumulative: $11,300,000

4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 5 – Last weekend #5

$9,000,000 (-31%) in 3,029 theaters (-390); PTA: $2,971; Cumulative: $147,775,000

5. Escape Room (Sony) Week 2 – Last weekend #2

$8,900,000 (-51%) in 2,717 theaters (no change); PTA: $3,276; Cumulative: $32,433,000

6. Mary Poppins Returns (Disney) Week 4 – Last weekend #3

$7,215,000 (-54%) in 3,253 theaters (-837); PTA: $2,218; Cumulative: $150,657,000

7. Bumblebee (Paramount) Week 4 – Last weekend #4

$6,775,000 (-49%) in 3,303 theaters (-294); PTA: $2,051; Cumulative: $108,470,000

8. On the Basis of Sex (Fox) Week 3 – Last weekend #

$6,227,000 (+287%) in 1,923 theaters (+1,811); PTA: $3,238; Cumulative: $10,558,000

9. The Mule (Warner Bros.) Week 5 – Last weekend #6

$5,545,000 (-39%) in 3,329 theaters (+117); PTA: $1,666; Cumulative: $90,578,000

10. Vice (Annapurna) Week 3 – Last weekend #7

$3,279,000 (-43%) in 1,724 theaters (-810); PTA: $1,902; Cumulative: $35,936,000

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