‘Up­side’ flexes mus­cles in sur­pris­ing de­but

Kevin Hart film far ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions, end­ing ‘Aqua­man’s’ hold on the top spot.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Son­aiya Kel­ley

The re­lease of STX En­ter­tain­ment’s “The Up­side” has jolted a slow post-hol­i­day box of­fice back to life, knock­ing “Aqua­man” from the top spot after three week­ends at No. 1, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from mea­sure­ment firm Com­score.

The film, which stars Kevin Hart as a live-in home health aide who be­friends a par­a­lyzed bil­lion­aire (Bryan Cranston), de­buted in first place with $19.6 mil­lion, nearly dou­bling an­a­lyst pre­dic­tions of $10 mil­lion.

A re­make of the French film “The In­touch­ables,” it got an A from au­di­ences on Cine­maS­core but only a 40% “rot­ten” rat­ing from crit­ics on re­view ag­gre­ga­tion site Rot­ten Toma­toes.

The movie’s suc­cess is sur­pris­ing, in wake of Hart’s re­cent con­tro­versy sur­round­ing his prospec­tive Os­cars host­ing gig. The co­me­dian dropped out after Hart’s ho­mo­pho­bic tweets resur­faced from years prior. De­spite the pic­ture’s over­all suc­cess, the re­sult is Hart’s small­est open­ing since his 2016 com­edy spe­cial “Kevin Hart: What Now?” opened with $11.8 mil­lion.

“We saw no ev­i­dence in the weeks lead­ing up to the re­lease that the gen­eral pub­lic’s en­thu­si­asm for this film was in any way ham­pered by any­thing that was go­ing on in the mar­ket­place,” said Adam Fo­gel­son, chair­man of the mo­tion pic­ture group for STX Films. “I think the two things were en­tirely sep­a­rate, and ob­vi­ously, the re­sults sup­port that.”

“The Up­side” rep­re­sents STX En­ter­tain­ment’s first No. 1 box-of­fice opener. Its over-per­for­mance proves Hart’s huge box of­fice draw de­spite a high-pro­file con­tro­versy. It fol­lows the box­of­fice and Golden Globe suc­cess of “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” de­spite di­rec­tor Bryan Singer’s fall from grace.

Also sur­pris­ing is the pic­ture’s abil­ity to bounce back from orig­i­nal dis­trib­u­tor We­in­stein Co.’s bank­ruptcy. STX made a deal with Lantern En­ter­tain­ment, the firm that bought the rem­nants of the em­bat­tled stu­dio, to re­lease the film.

“A small group of us saw the movie and be­lieved it was a thor­oughly crowd­pleas­ing movie with spec­tac­u­lar per­for­mances,” Fo­gel­son said of the de­ci­sion to ac­quire it. “Kevin Hart is a pro­to­type of the type of tal­ent that we are built to ser­vice. We ab­so­lutely be­lieved that there was sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial po­ten­tial and that [the film] not only de­served to be seen but was likely to pro­duce a suc­cess­ful out­come.”

In sec­ond place, “Aqua­man” earned $17.3 mil­lion in its fourth week­end for a cu­mu­la­tive $287.9 mil­lion as it be­came the fifth movie in Warner Bros. his­tory (and the third in DC his­tory) to sur­pass $1 bil­lion world­wide, join­ing the ranks of “Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows Part 2” ($1.3 bil­lion), “The Dark Knight Rises” ($1 bil­lion), “The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney” ($1 bil­lion) and “The Dark Knight” ($1 bil­lion).

Sony Pic­tures’ “A Dog’s Way Home” opened at No. 3 with $11.3 mil­lion, above an­a­lysts’ pre­dic­tions of $9 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion.

The $18-mil­lion film fol­lows a res­cue pup that trav­els 400 miles to be re­united with its own­ers. It earned mixed re­views, with an Ami­nus Cine­maS­core and a 59% “rot­ten” rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes.

Ca­nine movies are hav­ing a mo­ment at the box of­fice. Uni­ver­sal’s “A Dog’s Pur­pose” opened with $18.2 mil­lion in 2017 be­fore go­ing on to earn a re­spectable $205 mil­lion glob­ally. The stu­dio has al­ready an­nounced a se­quel, “A Dog’s Jour­ney.”

At No. 4, the stu­dio’s “Spi­der-Man: Into the Spi­der-Verse” earned $9 mil­lion in its fifth week­end for a cu­mu­la­tive $147.8 mil­lion.

Round­ing out the top five, the stu­dio’s “Es­cape Room” earned $8.9 mil­lion in its sec­ond week­end for a cu­mu­la­tive $32.4 mil­lion.

Also new over the week­end, En­ter­tain­ment Stu­dios Mo­tion Pic­tures’ sci-fi thriller “Repli­cas” opened with $2.5 mil­lion, well un­der an­a­lysts’ al­ready weak pro­jec­tion of $6 mil­lion. Star­ring Keanu Reeves, the film was uni­ver­sally panned, with a C rat­ing on Cine­maS­core and an 11% “rot­ten” rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes.

Fo­cus Fea­tures’ Ruth Bader Gins­burg drama “On the Ba­sis of Sex” opened in wide re­lease over the week­end, earn­ing $6.2 mil­lion in its third week­end (a cu­mu­la­tive $10.6 mil­lion) and land­ing at No. 8. It earned an A rat­ing on Cine­maS­core.

Com­pa­ra­bly, Mag­no­lia’s “RBG” doc­u­men­tary, a ma­jor suc­cess of the sum­mer, earned $14 mil­lion over the course of its do­mes­tic run. The re­sult, which is ex­cep­tional for a doc­u­men­tary, shows the bank­a­bil­ity of sto­ries about the 85-yearold Supreme Court jus­tice.

Also ex­pand­ing, An­na­purna’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” added 683 lo­ca­tions (for a to­tal of 1,018) and $2.4 mil­lion in its fifth week­end for a per-screen av­er­age of $2,347 and a cu­mu­la­tive $7.7 mil­lion.

Golden Globes win­ners “Green Book,” dis­trib­uted by Uni­ver­sal, and “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody,” from Fox, also con­tinue to post solid num­bers deep into their the­atri­cal runs: “Green Book” added 176 the­aters (for a to­tal of 742) and $2.1 mil­lion in its ninth week­end for a cu­mu­la­tive $38.5 mil­lion. “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” added 254 lo­ca­tions (for a to­tal of 1,334) and $3.2 mil­lion in its 11th week­end for a cu­mu­la­tive $198.5 mil­lion.

David Lee STX Films

“THE UP­SIDE,” with Bryan Cranston, left, Kevin Hart, de­buts at $19.6 mil­lion.

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