I think weâve reached the point where movies likeÂ Night SchoolÂ breaking out on opening weekend are not only not a surprise but almost somewhat boring. Thatâs 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 likeÂ ObsessedÂ orÂ The Best Man HolidayÂ 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. Leeâs Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy. And yes, itâs another solid ground-rule double for Universal/Comcast Corp. after last weekâs chart-toppingÂ 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 havenât yet seenÂ Night SchoolÂ (I actually havenât seen any of the weekendâs 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 McCarthyâs last movie was lousy, but you thought it was funny, then it wonât matter much if they also say her next movie is lousy. Hence the damage from poor reviews was minimal.
Since these films donât 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 Trip,Â Pitch Perfect 3,Â A Bad Moms Christmas) were party movies sold at ânot a white guyâ demographics. As such it has been this year withÂ Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,Â Crazy Rich Asians,Â BlockersÂ andÂ Oceanâs 8. To be fair, the more conventional ensemble comediesÂ TagÂ andÂ Game NightÂ did okay too. And a $9.5 million opening day qualifies as âokayâ 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. Thatâs not as high asÂ Get HardÂ ($33m in 2015) orÂ Think Like A Man TooÂ ($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 donât bust the budget and arenât trying to start a new franchise, you donât have to set records with each star vehicle debut. At a glance, weâre probably looking at a $65m-to-$70m domestic total, which will be fine especially if it performs overseas.
Malcolm D. Leeâs 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 sinceÂ Crazy Rich AsiansÂ six weeks ago. While she has made a point to be seen here, there and everywhere sinceÂ Girls Trip, this is actually Haddishâs first star vehicle since that breakout performance. Yes, sheâs been around (seeÂ Uncle DrewÂ andÂ especially The Carmichael Show), but this is her proverbialÂ Identity Thief. Sheâll be back in two weeks for the political comedyÂ The OathÂ and in five weeks for Tyler PerryâsÂ Nobodyâs Fool. She is, thus far, almost as popular in theaters as she is online.