Sunday, 21 October 2018

‘Night School’ Tops Box Office With Unsurprising $9.5M Friday

‘Night School’ Tops Box Office With Unsurprising $9.5M Friday
29 Sep

‘Night School’Photo by Eli Ade – © Universal Pictures

I think we’ve reached the point where movies like Night School breaking out on opening weekend are not only not a surprise but almost somewhat boring. That’s not a bad thing, but I kind of miss the time when I was one of the only ones not feigning shock and surprise when something like Obsessed or The Best Man Holiday scores a strong opening weekend. Yes, to the surprise of absolutely no one with a brain, Will Packer has another hit on his hands with Malcolm D. Lee’s Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy. And yes, it’s another solid ground-rule double for Universal/Comcast Corp. after last week’s chart-topping The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

To the extent that movie stardom exists beyond boosting a franchise or IP sell, it does so in the realm of mid-to-low budget comedies. I haven’t yet seen Night School (I actually haven’t seen any of the weekend’s newbies, but that may change by tomorrow morning), but I guarantee no matter what I or any other critic thinks of it, those who think Hart and Haddish are funny are going to line up over the weekend to have themselves a chuckle. If critics say (for example) Melissa McCarthy’s last movie was lousy, but you thought it was funny, then it won’t matter much if they also say her next movie is lousy. Hence the damage from poor reviews was minimal.

Since these films don’t tend to cost $150 million with hopes of sustaining a franchise or cinematic universe, they can boast original concepts and tell a one-and-done story. Even while we were all decrying the death of the mid-budget comedy in 2017, the few outliers (Girls TripPitch Perfect 3A Bad Moms Christmas) were party movies sold at “not a white guy” demographics. As such it has been this year with Mamma Mia! Here We Go AgainCrazy Rich AsiansBlockers and Ocean’s 8. To be fair, the more conventional ensemble comedies Tag and Game Night did okay too. And a $9.5 million opening day qualifies as “okay” for the $29m-budgeted, PG-13 comedy.

The film, about a guy attempting to get his G.E.D. and the teacher refusing to make it easy for him, should earn around $26.4 million over the weekend. That’s not as high as Get Hard ($33m in 2015) or Think Like A Man Too ($29m in 2014), but (say it with me now) fewer people go to the movies just to go to the movies than they did even a few years ago. When you don’t bust the budget and aren’t trying to start a new franchise, you don’t have to set records with each star vehicle debut. At a glance, we’re probably looking at a $65m-to-$70m domestic total, which will be fine especially if it performs overseas.

Malcolm D. Lee’s Night School had a solid high-concept, two trailers that played with an audience, two genuinely popular comedy movie stars and a solid release date making it the first big comedy since Crazy Rich Asians six weeks ago. While she has made a point to be seen here, there and everywhere since Girls Trip, this is actually Haddish’s first star vehicle since that breakout performance. Yes, she’s been around (see Uncle Drew and especially The Carmichael Show), but this is her proverbial Identity Thief. She’ll be back in two weeks for the political comedy The Oath and in five weeks for Tyler Perry’s Nobody’s Fool. She is, thus far, almost as popular in theaters as she is online.



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