5th Update, Sunday AM FINAL: Universal’s Night School maintained its No. 1 spot over the weekend with an improved 3-day $28M after a great Saturday of $11.2M that was up 18% over Friday. Know that percentage was even greater because if you take out Thursday’s $1.35M previews from Friday’s $9.5M; the jump is really 38% betweeen Friday and Saturday.
While many were predicting a $30M start for Night School, we can’t emphasize enough that an opening such as this in a marketplace where comedies have starved is to be commended. For some studios, it’s an uphill battle to post these types of numbers even with comedies that have great reviews (i.e. New Line’s Game Night, $17M) and it’s the second time this year that Universal has debuted a comedy to $20M+, Blockers having bowed to $20.5M in April.
'Night School' To Turn The Lights On For Comedy With $30M+ As September B.O. Heads For $621M, Second-Best Ever
At $26.5M over 3-days, and $35.2M over five back in August, Crazy Rich Asians was a breakthrough for romantic comedies, which also had waned to the point of that Warner Bros. release; Night School is raunchier type of comedy. The fact that a major studio can still open a comedy off a low Rotten Tomatoes score (31%, in this case) only provides continued hope to the studios that cannot. Critics are quick to praise those comedies that play to the top of an audience’s intelligence or that try to reinvent the wheel, and the fact of the matter is that those types of comedies are far and few between at the box office. What works here with Night School largely is Haddish, because audiences like a discovery on the marquee, and it’s truly second big above-the-title vehicle after last year’s Girls Trip, also a Universal and Packer production, which opened to a $31.2M, an opening that no other comedy has matched since.
“Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are two of the biggest names in comedy, and they make an unstoppable duo in this film,” beamed Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr. “Their chemistry and comedic timing pop off the screen. They have an immensely dedicated and broad fan base that turned out in droves, giving Universal its second straight No. 1 opening, and the largest comedy debut of the year.”
For the Night School campaign, Hart and Haddish took part in a robust press tour and both worked excessively on social catering to a combined social media fanbase of 126M. They played a hot sauce game show “Truth or Dab,” which drew 3.3M on YouTube. It was one of many press promos where they paired up including a Power 105 FM radio sitdown on “The Breakfast Club” that clocked close to 3.5M YouTube views. Hart embarked on a multi-city tour in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago, where he surprised various schools promoting positivity (Haddish posted a video of Hart on tour on Instagram that drew 287K views) and threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.
The outdoor footprint for Night School was huge with huge billboards in key places around town, i.e. near Hollywood & Highland, on the 405 coming into the city from LAX and on Sunset Boulevard. Meanwhile, in NYC, Hart rode atop a wrapped double-decker bus and was lifted up as high as the film’s Times Square billboard, promoting Night School to the crowds below.
While doing the AM and late-night talk show circuit is the lifeblood of any film campaign’s promotion, Haddish actually co-hosted Live with Kelly and Ryan with Kelly Ripa. Meanwhile, Hart was the first male co-host on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Both Night School stars appeared in several custom-content pieces throughout the campaign including a “Home Economics” segment on VH1’s Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, a custom vignette with Chris Harrison on ABC’s Bachelor in Paradise and a “Music History” vignette during BET’s The Bobby Brown Story. High-profile spots appeared during the finales of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, during prominent NFL games and the premiere of FX’s American Horror Story: Apocalyspe. Additional campaign highlights include a digital activation with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football, marking the first time a film ever has sponsored the NFL Fantasy League Draft on that platform, and a Hart takeover of HQ trivia, where he guested hosted the game show for their $100K Night School game, which was the first time the show has done a single-winner giveaway.
Demos this AM for Night School were 50-50 male-female, 59% over age 25 and a largely diverse crowd of 37% Caucasian, 30% African American, 24% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 4% other.
Warner Bros.’ Smallfoot kept on its path with a $23M start after matinees drove Saturday’s business to $10M, +54% over Friday. Night School and Smallfoot capped off the second-biggest September ever at the domestic box office per comScore with an estimated $659.6M, -6% from last year’s record $698.5M but besting the previous second-best September of $616.4M in 2015 by 7%. The Nun drove 17% of this September’s business with $109M. We hear that the film was doing powerhouse business yesterday up until 6 PM, which means it was clearly a handholder-kid type of movie; the Disney/Pixar titles play greatly past dusk, hence their larger ticket sales. With a production cost of $80M, we hear this is an OK start for Smallfoot. It’s bigger than Storks, which opened to $21.3M and got to $72.6M stateside, $183.3M global. The end result in U.S./Canada for Smallfoot is around $75M-$80M.
CBS and Lionsgate’s Hell Fest came in higher than the $4.7M we saw yesterday with $5M in sixth place. The pic cost $5.5M, co-backed by Tucker Tooley. Being a non-franchise unlike The Nun, which pegged it out for fifth place with $5.4M in its fourth weekend, coupled with bad reviews at 38% Rotten, prevented this original genre IP from finding a wider audience. CBS was after the horror faithful and dedicated its marketing spend to guys over 25 and females 18-24; the studio is looking for greater green in the home entertainment realm.
Pureflix’s Pinnacle Peak Pictures’ Little Women came in small with $747K at 643 venues. The film wasn’t at the 1,000-plus theater threshold as the distributor’s previous faith-based fare. The distributor’s Hillsong earned $1.35M at 816 theaters in its opening back in September 2016, and A Question of Faith opened to $1M at 661 last September, but they too were great misfires, ending their runs just north of $2M.
Below the top 16 films per studio-reported figures as of Sunday AM:
4th Update, Saturday AM Writethru: Universal’s Night School is coming in lower than its expected $30M with a three-day at $26.3M off a $9.5M Friday (including previews), and Warner Bros. Yeti family toon Smallfoot isn’t far behind with a revised industry estimate of $23.6M.
If the Karey Kirkpatrick-Jason Reisig-directed feature toon swells more than 70% today over its $6.4M Friday (which includes $850K Thursday night previews), it may just nudge Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish to second place.
Last weekend, Amblin’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls saw a 47% surge on Saturday catapulting its weekend estimate from $24.6M on Friday to a near $27M opening by Sunday EOD. The Eli Roth-helmed family feature is taking third with an estimated $12.1M, -55%, steeper than projected as it’s in Smallfoot’s shadow.
Still, even though Night School is coming in under its tracking, any studio would envy a $25M+ opening for a comedy in this marketplace, especially with this pic’s 29% Rotten Tomatoes reviews. Uni already owns the year’s previous opening high for a comedy, the R-rated teen comedy Blockers ($20.5M). Night School‘s opening is also very good in regards to the pic’s production cost which is net under $30M.
The weekend’s top 10 per industry estimates:
WEEKEND B.O. FOR SEPT. 28-30
In regards to Night School dimming the lights, know that these adult comedies make their cash in the late night hours, so Sunday morning could show a different story for the Malcolm D. Lee-directed title. Already, the pic is up in its Friday night to Saturday AM numbers. Some blame the bad reviews for slowing Night School down, which is the bane of every comedy’s existence, however, note that other critically slammed Hart movies such as Get Hard and the Ride Alongs beat their reviews at the B.O. with $30M-plus openings. Universal sold Night School as a broad comedy which could cross over various demos (it did with 36% African American, 27% Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, and 9%), and while it looks like an R-rated comedy particularly with the pungent Hart and Haddish, it’s PG-13 in an effort to enroll a younger crowd. Haddish is pulling in females over 25 at 33%, the pic’s largest demo, followed by males over 25 (27%), females under 25 (20%) and guys under 25 (19%).
Even though Night School has a great social media wattage of 214M, which is 95% greater than the average African American comedy, further bolstered by Hart’s powerhouse social following (121M across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and Haddish’s (5M), entertainment data analyst RelishMix noticed a mixed reaction among potential moviegoers reporting, “While Hart and Haddish fans are definitely lining up, other comedy moviegoers and a certain high brow contingent are advising they’re skipping the film because of the negative stereotypes it celebrates…It’s arguable that this contingent is just not getting the joke, but the volume is palpable in a year that saw Black Panther dominate the box office. It’s also possible that Hart’s star has hit its zenith, with some of his fans claiming that they still find him funny, but his shtick is getting a little old.”
Those moviegoers who got off the couch and went to Night School loved it with an A- CinemaScore, which is the same grade that Hart’s Central Intelligence earned, above Ride Along 2 (B+) and Get Hard (B), yet filing below Girls Trip‘s (A+) and Ride Along (A). PostTrak audiences gave the movie 3.5 stars.
Smallfoot also gets an A- which is the same as Warner Bros.’ Storks and better than DreamWorks Animation’s Captain Underpants’ B+. PostTrak exits loved the Yeti movie at 4 stars. The movie based on Sergio Pablos’ book Yeti Tracks has impressed critics with its “thoughtful lesson about tolerance, division and learning to see from the perspective of others” per CNN’s Brian Lowry while the Washington Post‘s Jane Horwitz writes, “The debunking of a creation myth isn’t the sort of narrative that usually drives an animated Hollywood comedy. Yet after a rather bland beginning, that is exactly what sets Smallfoot apart, along with some inspired slapstick stunts. This entertaining fantasy has intellectual ballast, but it’s cleverly disguised.”
RelishMix compliments Warners on getting the fun message out in a loud way on social media –the pic has an enormous social media universe that’s close to 400M across FB, Twitter, IG and YouTube views–with LeBron James, Channing Tatum and Zendaya contributing 61% of the movie’s social reach. In total, the activated cast counts over 245M social media followers, “one of the most social casts we’ve seen in months, maybe since Infinity War,” exclaims RelishMix. The breadth of Smallfoot‘s big foot on social is further propelling the positive word of mouth from those who’ve caught early screenings.
James is the voice of the Yeti Gwangi, and RelishMix is citing the “LeBron James” effect in impacting the pic’s social media marketing for the better. “The Los Angeles Lakers basketball star shared clips and pics of his family’s visit to the Yeti Village, which Warner Bros constructed as a real life experience for families to enjoy (in So-Cal),” reports the social metrics corp. James’ appearance with Tatum on Ellen where they performed ridiculous stunts has drawn 1.5M YouTube views since Sept. 12.
Kids are making up 38% of the audience, followed by 38% general audience and 24% parents. Of the under 12 bunch, girls at 52% are edging out boys who rep 48%. Seven- to nine-year-olds are the biggest bunch at 56%. Boys like Small Foot better than girls, 91% to 88%.
There’s a trick to making microbudget mushroom at the box office and time and time again, Blumhouse and Universal (and New Line whose Nun is earning $5.4M in 5th place and $108.9M total in weekend 4) know how to take films that were made for crumbs and send their ticket sales skyward. CBS and Lionsgate’s Hell Fest with a production cost of $5.5M before P&A wasn’t going after a wide audience but a narrow genre fanbase of men over 25 (they turned out big at 33% per PostTrak), plus females 17-24 (females under 25 showed up at 21% behind males under 25 at 24% and females over 25 at 22%). Audience was made up of 45% Caucasian, 30% Hispanic, 11% African American and 11% Asian. CBS/Lionsgate did a lot of stunting including a Six Flags partnership with replicas of the film’s maze at top parks, a retro ’80s trailer, big TV spot splashes built around American Horror Story, The Purge (series) and Fear The Walking Dead. Additionally cable was used to pursue young females via MTV, VH1, Bravo, E!, Telemundo and Univision with a robust audio campaign aimed to get those millennials on Spotify and Pandora. Six Flags also supported Hell Fest with local TV and digital advertising. In addition Hell Fest was promoted at numerous haunted houses, mazes, escape rooms and genre conventions including DragonCon (Atlanta), Wizard World (Chicago), Midsummer Scream (LA), ScareLA and more. There was also a Unity 8-bit interactive ad game. Yet despite all these efforts, Hell Fest is only ringing up a meager $4.8M. Critics can make the difference in propelling original horror films and it appeared this one was shielded from them with only 11 reviews reporting a 35% RT score led by IndieWire’s Michael Nordine blasting, “If it were any good, it could have been the movie of the moment. Instead, it’ll have been forgotten by Halloween.” RelishMix says about the online chatter, “Fans of the genre name a myriad of movies that they’ve seen that seem to be exactly what Hell Fest is offering. This majority contingent of convo suggests that they’ll wait for the after market, should they decide to see Hell Fest at all.” Hell Fest gets a C CinemaScore and two stars on PostTrak, so that tells you what the audience thinks about it.
PureFlix’s new label Pinnacle Peak Pictures will distribute titles that feature inspirational stories. But their modern re-telling of Little Women with its updated fresh-face conceit and Lea Thompson isn’t enough to create a stampede with only $880K at 643 locations. Critics aren’t fans at 38% and that’s what you need if you’re going to make a dent with this Louisa May Alcott reboot.
Meanwhile, last weekend’s entries are in free-fall with Briarcliff Entertainment’s Fahrenheit 11/9 down 64% with an estimated $1M and running total of $5.1M. Don’t blame anti-Trump fatigue, the movie went way too wide at 1,719 theaters. It’s a Michael Moore doc, not a Steven Spielberg drama. Last weekend, the top 10% of the doc’s runs made close to 40% of the pic’s business; proof that it was best kept as a specialty engagement. If that was the case, the headlines would be marveling over the theater average. The pic’s grosses are holding up in key locations such as Lincoln Square and LA’s Landmark. Amazon’s Life Itself dropped 63% with $781K and a 10-day total of $3.7M while NEON/AGBO’s Assassination Nation is bleeding -84% with $170K and a $1.6M running gross by Sunday.
On the specialty side, National Geographic’s survival doc Free Solo about Alex Honnold becoming the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000-ft El Capitan Wall sans ropes or safety gear looks to be notching the best theater average of the year to date with an awesome $76,2K or $305K at four theaters. That’s higher than the $65K opening screen average of A24’s Eighth Grade. Fox Searchlight’s Robert Redford swan song The Old Man and The Gun has a current estimated theater average of $30K or $150K at five NY and LA locations.
Last weekend’s indie holdovers, Annapurna’s The Sisters Brothers and Bleecker Street’s Colette are staying strong with respective theater averages of $8,6K and $9,2K. Sisters Brothers jumped from 4 to 27 runs in 10 markets with expanded limited plays in NY and LA plus exclusive runs in Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, DC, Houston, Denver, Phoenix and Austin. The pic, which is looking at a second weekend of $232K (+101%) is still playing strong in NY and LA with Dallas, Phoenix and Austin the best of the new engagements. $393K is the 10-day total by tomorrow.
Colette went from four runs in NY/LA to 38 theaters in 16 markets, 14 being new and exclusive. NY and LA are the leaders with Phoenix, DC and San Francisco being the best of the new plays. Second weekend is $351K, +118%, for a running total through Sunday of $571K.
2nd Update, Friday 11:41AM: Early read here on Universal’s Night School which is tracking for a $9.5M opening day and a weekend that’s between $27M-$29M. While $30M would be a sweet take, that’s still an impressive number in these times for a comedy, Uni had the previous best opening this year with its R-rated teen pic Blockers at $20.6M.
Warner Bros. animated pic Smallfoot will own second with a $6M Friday (a few cents more than their 2016 Storks $5.7M opening day), and a three-day that’s between $20M and $22.5M. Two films in the final weekend of September, opening to $20M, seriously, exhibitors aren’t complaining especially with this month on track to be the second best ever with around $621M after last year’s record $698.5M.
Amblin’s via Uni The House With a Clock In Its Walls looking at a second weekend estimate of $13.7M, -48%, for a 10-day of $46M. Saturday and Sunday matinees are the power times for both Smallfoot and House.
Lionsgate’s A Simple Favor looks to continue to pull in women with an estimated weekend of $7.3M, -29% for a running total in weekend 3 of $43.77M. That’s ahead of Blake Lively’s previous LG/Lakeshore release, the romantic drama The Age of Adaline ($42.6M) Today the Paul Feig-directed pic looks to make $2.3M, -30% from a week ago.
CBS and Lionsgate’s Hell Fest is landing in 5th with a $2.2M opening day, including $435K previews from last night, and an opening between $4M-$6M. The R-rated horror pic from Gregory Plotkin only cost $5.5M to make with Tucker Tooley co-financing.
More genre: 20th Century Fox’s The Predator eyes third weekend in the $3M-$4M range, -62% with a running total by Sunday stateside of $47.9M. Predators, the previous Robert Rodriguez-produced chapter from July 2010, ended its domestic box office run at $52M, so this latest version is closing in on that figure.
1st Update, 7:12AM: Universal’s Night School threw its doors open for session last night, ringing up $1.35 million at 2,500 theaters with showtimes that began at 7 PM.
With a projected opening weekend of $30M at 3,010 theaters, the Tiffany Haddish-Kevin Hart PG-13 movie is poised to be a box office anomaly for comedies, which have suffered greatly in recent months: The last big openings for a comedy were last year’s R-rated Girls Trip with Haddish ($31.2M, also a career record box office opening for Night School director Malcolm D. Lee) and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s Daddy’s Home 2 ($29.6M).
Fandango is reporting that advance ticket sales for Night School are outpacing previous Hart comedies, the PG-13 Central Intellgience ($35.5M opening) and Ride Along 2 ($35.2M), at the same point in their sales cycle. Night School is 26% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, but that dismal grade won’t mess up its business this weekend. For R-rated raunchy fare, it’s another story.
Night School‘s preview last night came in higher than Hart’s-Ice Cube Ride Along movies (part 2 scored $1.26M and part 1 made $1.06M), but filed under Central Intelligence‘s $1.835M, the R-rated Hart-Ferrell comedy Get Hard ($1.8M), and Haddish’s Girls Trip which made $1.7M last July (many will say it’s a female-geared R-rated comedy, but the pic wound up playing broad).
For the second weekend in a row, Universal is expected to notch the No. 1 spot after last weekend’s Amblin movie The House With a Clock In Its Walls made $26.6M. That movie is set to ease 40% in Weekend 2 with around $16M, raising its 10-day cume by Sunday to $48.2M. Last night House made $1M at 3,592 locations, bringing its first-week tally to $32.2M.
Warner Bros Animation title Smallfoot is now tracking between $25M-$27M at 4,131 venues and held 4 PM previews last night, earning $850,000, which is $10K higher than House’s Thursday night previews last week. The pic also beat the previews of DreamWorks Animation’s Captain Underpants which earned $650K, and WB’s own animated Storks which made $435K before a $21.3M opening in September 2016. Smallfoot has a 75% fresh RT score, higher than House‘s 66% fresh and Storks’ 65% fresh.
CBS/Lionsgate has the Gale Anne Hurd- and Tucker Tooley-produced R-rated horror title Hell Fest, which kicked off last night with $435K. It’s looking at a $5M-$8M opening at 2,297 venues.
Pinnacle Peak via PureFlix has the modern-day reboot of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women from filmmaker Clare Niederpruem, which at 643 venues is estimated at $1M.
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