While yucks haven’t translated into bucks at the box office for quite some time, the comedy genre is expected to come alive this weekend with Universal’s PG-13 rated Malcolm D. Lee-directed feature Night School which is set to ace a $30M-plus opening; the highest debut for a comedy, well, since last July’s Girls Trip ($31.2M) which was also directed by Lee and repped a record debut for the director at the B.O.
When it comes to comedy stars, moviegoers like a discovery, and that’s Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish and she’s paired with one of the few box office stars who can actually still make it work on the big screen, Kevin Hart.
That pop for comedies is also a boost for this September’s turnstiles which is shaping up to be the second-best ever with an estimated U.S./Canada gross of $621M (per Deadline) that’s set to rank behind the month’s all-time record from last year of $698.5M. Currently September’s domestic ticket sales count $531.4M through the first 24 days of the month, 19% of the same period in September 2015 which finaled at $616.4M according to ComScore.
Both PG-13 and R-rated mainstream comedies have had a slow time at the box office, with Universal’s Blockers ($20.5M) repping the biggest opening for the genre so far this year, not counting VFX superhero hybrids like Deadpool 2 ($125.5M). Reviews are just beginning to trickle in for Night School currently.
Night School will also rep the second No. 1 weekend in a row for Universal after their Amblin release last weekend The House With a Clock In Its Walls, that family pic is set to make $16M in its second weekend, -40%. Through five days, the Eli Roth-directed family movie, the filmmaker’s first, has made $30.1M. Universal will have a bountiful autumn, especially with the critically acclaimed Neil Armstrong biopic First Man opening on Oct. 12, Blumhouse’s Halloween reboot on Oct. 19 and Illumination Entertainment’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch on Nov. 9 and their fall film festival surprise Green Book on Nov. 21; a diversified slate indeed, which the studio prides its commercial success upon.
Warner Bros. has the animated pic Smallfoot squarely aimed at families and it’s expected to bring in $23M-$27M. While the studio has done alright with hand-holder feature toons during late September prior, i.e. Storks which opened to $21.3M and legged out to $72.6M, we hear this one has a Hanna Barbara-Looney Tunes sensibility which might enable it to play up. The Karey Kirkpatrick-Jason Reisig directed movie will play in 4,000 locations with previews kicking off at 3,100 at 5PM tomorrow night. The movie, which features the voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito and Gina Rodriguez, follows a Yeti who discovers humans. Rotten Tomatoes score on Smallfoot is currently at 74% fresh which is higher than Storks’ 65% fresh.
CBS Films has Hell Fest which is making a direct play and horror-philes and remains the strongest with females 18-24 and males 25-34. The thrifty $5.5M budget pic with a digital P&A targeted demo spend is tracking toward a $5M-$9M start at 2,297 theaters. Tooley Entertainment co-financed this movie which had Georgia state tax credits and was directed by Gregory Plotkin (director of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimsension) and produced by The Walking Dead‘s Gale Anne Hurd and also Tooley. The comps here for success are the Blumhouse BHTilt titles that have worked at the B.O, read The Darkness ($4.9M, $10.7M).
Pinnacle Peak via PureFlix has a modern day version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women starring Lea Thompson. The pic is being released at 643 venues with tracking suggesting a $2M-$4M start.
Fox Searchlight also has Robert Redford’s swan song, the crime drama The Old Man & The Gun, a throwback to his classic ’70s fare. The pic which is 86% positive on RT is firing off in NY and Los Angeles at five locations.