‘The Up­side’ un­seats ‘Aqua­man’ in $19.6M de­but

Santa Fe New Mexican - - THE WEATHER - By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK — Kevin Hart isn’t host­ing the Os­cars, but he’s got a No. 1 movie. The

Up­side, star­ring Hart and Bryan Cranston, sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions to open with $19.6 mil­lion in ticket sales, ac­cord­ing to stu­dio es­ti­mates Sun­day.

The strong per­for­mance of The Up­side pushed Aqua­man to sec­ond after the aquatic su­per­hero’s three-week reign atop the North Amer­i­can box of­fice. Warner Bros.’ Aqua­man still passed $1 bil­lion world­wide over the week­end, be­com­ing the first DC Comics re­lease to reach that mark since 2012’s The

Dark Knight Rises.

The Up­side opened on the heels of sev­eral weeks of Os­car drama sur­round­ing Hart. The co­me­dian last month with­drew from host­ing the Academy Awards, just days after be­ing named em­cee, when he ini­tially re­fused to apol­o­gize for years-old ho­mo­pho­bic tweets.

On the pub­lic­ity trail for The Up­side, Hart re­peat­edly dis­missed the Os­car con­tro­versy, say­ing he was “over it,” while flirt­ing with the pos­si­bil­ity of re­turn­ing as Os­car host.

Whether all that at­ten­tion helped raise the pro­file of The Up­side, a re­make of the 2012 French com­edy The In­touch­ables, was dif­fi­cult to ex­trap­o­late. Ticket sales were al­most twice in­dus­try fore­casts. The film re­ceived poor re­views and was slammed by some crit­ics for trad­ing on the kind of gay panic hu­mor that Hart was forced to apol­o­gize for.

Neil Burger’s film, which cost about $35 mil­lion to make, stars Hart as an ex-con who be­comes a care­taker for a phys­i­cally dis­abled au­thor (Cranston). It was orig­i­nally to be dis­trib­uted by the We­in­stein Co. Har­vey We­in­stein pre­miered the film at the 2017 Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val just weeks be­fore the many al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual harass­ment sur­faced against the movie mogul.

STX En­ter­tain­ment picked up the movie, which on Sun­day handed the five-year-old startup stu­dio its first No. 1 re­lease at the box of­fice. Launched in 2014 with a mis­sion to make the kind of mid-bud­geted, star-driven films the stu­dios have in­creas­ingly aban­doned, STX has had some suc­cesses (Bad Moms, The For­eigner, the crit­i­cally ac­claimed

The Edge of Seven­teen) but has of­ten strug­gled to find break­out hits.

Last year’s The Hap­py­time Mur­ders, with Melissa McCarthy, was one of the most glar­ing flops.

DAVID LEE/STX­FILMS VIA AP

Bryan Cranston, from left, Jahi Di’Allo Win­ston and Kevin Hart ap­pear in a scene from The Up­side.

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