Why Kevin Hart’s Oscar Host Noise Didn’t Upset ‘The Upside’ At B.O.: STX Posts First No. 1 Opener With $19.5M+

Bryan Cranston, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, and Kevin Hart star in THE UPSIDE David Lee/Photographer

Anthony D’Alessandro, Deadline про успіх фільму «1+1: Нова історія» в американському кінопрокаті.

FINAL SUNDAY UPDATE 10:04AM, after Sunday 7:32 AM, Saturday AM and Friday PM posts: In a slow January weekend, STXfilms reaped the box office spoils and notched its first ever No. 1 opening since launching their theatrical arm in August 2015 with The Upside posting $19.59M

Rivals have often knocked STX for improperly dating their titles. Well, who is laughing now?

STX’s distribution of Lantern Entertainment’s Upside is unexpectedly beating Warner Bros/DC’s Aquaman which hooked a $17.3M fourth weekend, -44% for a running domestic total of $287.9M. The Neil Burger-directed dramedy is soaring significantly past its industry tracking ($10M-$14M). It’s quite possible by tomorrow morning, The Upside ups its three-day take to $20M. Saturday’s ticket sales of $7.9M were up over Friday’s $7M by 14%.

Some wondered why STX wasn’t releasing this movie next weekend over MLK, which has been a lucrative period for Kevin Hart fare. Others wondered why the studio didn’t qualify the film for Oscars after a great response at its TIFF 2017 premiere. Really, no regrets here by STX. They knew to stay out of the way of Universal/BVI/Blumhouse’s Glass next weekend (better to play into that movie, which could open to $54M-$70M).

Also, why launch an awards campaign for Upside when Green Book (a kind of, sort of, similar story) is soaking up all the love? When STXfilms entered into a distribution deal with Lantern Entertainment to handle the film (many believe the rate is 10%), they treated the title like one of their own. STX worked with Burger and the pic’s producers to trim Upside from an R to PG-13, and that assisted with the pic’s playability, evident in its A CinemaScore. A big feat here for Upside is that even though audiences love the film back at TIFF, it was sitting on Rotten Tomatoes with a 55% score for the last year and half. That score dropped to 34% and for STX to lick that, bravo.

There’s another optical victory here for The Upside, and that is that the film is seeing the light of day, with great box office results. Here’s a movie that played very well with audiences, and through no fault of its own, became collateral damage in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, its theatrical release held up by TWC’s bankruptcy proceedings.

STXfilms and Lantern get recognition here for ensuring that this movie received a proper, successful launch. There are still many former TWC titles that are mired in legal entanglements and are slow to release — if at all. Bleecker Street, as we exclusively reported, rescued Hotel Mumbai.

Upside‘s No. 1 opening is a boost for STX’s mission of releasing low-to-mid budget films, with targeted marketing costs, in an effort to yield profitable hits. As the Disney-Fox merger looms upon us, rival distributors believe that mid-budget fare will see a boom. Here’s the first example of that trend in 2019.

What’s also driving business here for Upside? Women over 25, who repped 46% of the audience on Screen Engine/ComScore’s PostTrak and are giving the pic its best grades at 91%. Overall, the Hart-Cranston combo has four and a half stars and a 66% definite recommend. Men 25+ are the second biggest demo at 29%. Diversity reach is broad on Upside, with 45% Caucasians, 25% African-American, and 19% Hispanic. The Upside played best in the west and south, along with solid numbers in the midwest. The top ten theaters include five in Texas and Georgia, which is not usually the norm for a #1 film in the marketplace.

STXfilms kept their P&A reasonable at less than $30M. They are not backstopping it, which earns them more of an upside in their distribution deal. iSpot backs this up, showing that the Burbank, CA-based media company shelled out less in TV spots at $7M than its wide entry competition this weekend. Sony spent $18.8M on A Dog’s Way Home, and Entertainment Studios, which we hear was very TV heavy with Replicas spots during NFL games, forked over $10.5M in TV spend.

STX targeted Kevin Hart fans, female and African American audiences in their P&A spend. They screened the pic for mom bloggers and sports team influencers including the NY Knicks, Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards and Tony Hawk. The studio used transactionial movie goer data to reach, and engage critical audiences.

“What we did here successfully was mass market a wide release in a more efficient fashion and that comes down to the aggressive use of data, some of which is available to everyone, and some of it proprietary, with a database we’ve been building over four years. We target people who like to go to these movies, and have an affinity for the content we’re creating. It’s having a rational clear minded understanding of what it takes to drive people to the movie theater,” said Adam Fogelson, Chairman of the STXfilms Motion Picture Group this morning about the success of The Upside.

“The use of this data is critical in creating a clear road map, not to just explain internally, but to our talent partners so they’re able to recognize and reap the upside. When you spend half as much as other (studios) to accomplish the same thing, everyone is cutting into the profit way earlier,” he added.

Film marketing and PR executives typically rip their hair out when there’s a controversy connected a star who has a film opening. For Hart that was the whole chatter surrounding his possible Oscar hosting duties, and on most of the talks shows he appeared, from Ellen to The Late Show, that subject dominated the conversation. Still, what’s apparent here with the No. 1 opening of The Upside was that there was no such thing as bad publicity: Word obviously got out that Hart had a film this weekend, and that everyone should see it, and he’s receiving the best exit scores of his career with this film.

“All the conversation surrounding Hart’s Oscar hosting situation was divorced from The Upside. The movie wasn’t featured in those conversations. The conversation about the Oscars specifically occupied its own lane, and we did not see any evidence that it was impacting the audience’s desire to come see this movie,” says Fogelson.

Social media monitor RelishMix reports that Upside‘s social media universe is exceptional at 222.5M across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube views, with Instagram pumped greatly by Hart’s 126M social reach. “But, even if his reach was discounted, Upside would still exceed the genre average handily,” praises the online analytics group. Social buzz leans positive, with RelishMix adding: “Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston fans think this combination of traditionally dramatic and comedic actors sounds great. Many call out the original French film, but with hopes that this U.S. version will match, or at least tell the story in a more comedic fashion.”

Despite Aquaman taking second place stateside, he’s surfing Warner Bros. to their 5th $1 billion-grossing-plus title in the studio’s –third for a DC film– after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($1.3B), The Dark Knight Rises ($1B), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($1B), and The Dark Knight ($1B). The pic should hit $300M at the domestic B.O. next Saturday.

Sony/Bona’s Film A Dog’s Way Home is coming in third with an esimated $11.3M, a meh result for a movie that cost $18M. Saturday at $7.85M was driven by family matinees, +13% over Friday. Distribution sources snipe that it made no sense for the Culver City lot to release the movie in a family-heavy marketplace where there’s Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, and Sony’s own Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse in play. There’s only 1% of K-12 schools off on Monday, per ComScore (a number that rises to 95% on MLK Monday). The whole point why Sony put the doggy film here this weekend, was like STX with Upside, to play into the upcoming 4-day holiday. But this feature rendition of the W. Bruce Cameron novel is opening at 38% less than 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose ($18.2M). CinemaScore was an A-, which is a half a grade below the As received by Amblin/Universal’s A Dog’s Purpose and MGM/Warner Bros.’ Max. Speaking of the latter, A Dog’s Way Home could mirror that canine pic’s trajectory, which opened to $12.1M and ended its domestic run at $42.6M.

“The negative leaning side of discussion really comes from moviegoers outside this film’s target audience,” says RelishMix. “This contingent feels like the trailers give away far too much, and that the plot seems like a complete copy of Homeward Bound.” RelishMix also points out a moderate social media universe for the film of 61.5M, with a low viral video rate of 4:1, “far short of the family/live-action genre’s 38:1. Also, average new daily Facebook Fans are at about 800, while the benchmark is 7.4K. And, average daily views for top clips on YouTube are 5.1K, once again behind the standard 27.6K,” reports the online analytics corp.

PostTrak shows a different audience response than CinemaScore on A Dog’s Way Home, with both parents (15% of the crowd), kids (36%) and general audiences (49%) giving the movie 3 1/2 stars. Moms outnumbered dads, 63% to 37%, and enjoyed it more, 82% to 72%. But even though there were more girls than boys under 12, 61% to 39%, they liked it slightly less at 77% to boys’ 80%. Sixty-eight percent of kids under 12 plan to spread good buzz about A Dog’s Way Home to their friends. Dog’s Way Home predictably played best in the Mid-West and South where you would expect.

Shoutout to Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns which becomes the fifth highest live-action musical at the domestic box office with $150.7M to date, beating the lifetime stateside totals of Les Miserables ($148.8M), Mamma Mia! ($144.2M) and will soon pass La La Land ($151.1M). Worldwide, she’s at $287.9M and counting. Through 26 days in releases at the domestic B.O., Poppins is still pacing ahead of Fox’s The Greatest Showman by 58%. There have been various prolific star-studded screenings of the film in this final weekend of phase 1 Oscar nom voting with Sophia Loren here in LA and Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively in NYC. There is also a Mary Poppins Experience complete with sets and a screening occurring today on the Disney lot in Burbank.

Focus Features’ wide break of On the Basis of Sex is looking at $6.2M at 1,923 theaters after a $2.4M Saturday, +12% from Friday. Exits are excellent with a solid A CinemaScore, 4 1/2 stars on PostTrak, and a 62% definite recommend. There’s really no awards season buzz here for the movie unless it surprises with a key Oscar nomination on Jan. 22. What’s driving business is pure love for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in big cities, especially those on the coast, as expressed by females over 25, who showed up at 54% and graded the pic an 87% on PostTrak. Men over 25 were the second biggest draw here repping 27% of the crowd. Top markets are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington DC. The Darkest Hour made about the same amount of money, $6M, when it hit a similar range of play (1,733 theaters in weekend 7). But its screen average was slightly better than On the Basis of Sex‘s, $3,5K to $3,2K. Participant Media produced and financed On the Basis of Sex.

Replicas has sparked out with $2.5M and a C CinemaScore. Critics hate it more than audiences at 11% Rotten. Saturday’s business of $875K was down 8% from Friday. The results speak for themselves: It’s the lowest wide opening (in 1,000-plus theaters) of Keanu Reeves’ career. John Wick, Replicas is not. The buzz on social is next to nothing because the film has an awfully low social media universe count of 24.5M. Says RelishMix, “It’s worth noting that other convo has pirates advising each other where they can see the film online, and this rotten element is sharing spoilers and links.” Variety‘s Joe Leydon was put off by the thriller’s late plot twist, which doesn’t completely compensate for the pic’s “cavernous plot holes, risible dialogue, and ludicrously illogical behavior.” It’s not a fun shoot-em up like Reeves’ Matrix and John Wick, but rather a somber drama in which he loses his family in a car accident and tries to bring them back. “After what may be one hundred hours, the film does not so much end as it stops, the score’s wrapping-up tone an evident substitute for closure or resolution,” cries Charles Bramesco of The Guardian. Replicas’ US rights were bought by Entertainment Studios out of TIFF 2017 for $4M, the same year Weinstein Co. gave The Upside its world premiere.

Annapurna’s Golden Globe winner If Beale Street Could Talk is jumping 30% in its expansion to 1,018 runs in 158 markets with $2.3M. Moviegoers rated the film at 82% in the top two boxes, with a 65% recommend. Those who showed were 61/39 Female and 52% over 35, with the single largest quad being 25-34 years old at 27%. The mix was 40% Caucasian, 38% African American, 12% Hispanic and 10% Asian. Beale Street played best on the East Coast and was led by New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and Philadelphia. In PostTrak polling, Beale Street gets four stars from audiences, with African Americans giving the film a 91% positive score. Males are enjoying the pic at 86%, women at 80%. The pic has a good 65% definite recommend.

Annapurna also has the Nicole Kidman LA cop noir Destroyer which she received a Golden Globe drama actress nomination for. The Karyn Kusama-directed movie expanded from six to 27 theaters for a $151K third weekend, +54% for a running total of $426K. Kidman has –count ’em– three movies on the charts right now with No. 1’s The Upside, No. 2’s Aquaman and this gritty action pic which is 74% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Oscar-shortlisted feature doc Free Solo, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever to climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall, played at 97 Imax screens and grossed $700K. The pic posted an $814K 16th weekend and has accumulated $12.3M at the domestic B.O.; one the last year’s top docs.

2ND UPDATE: STXfilms/Lantern’s The Upside is in a too-close-to call weekend race with the fourth weekend of Warner Bros’ Aquaman, $17.9 million to $17.8 million. For certain today is that the crowd-pleasing Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston dramedy will beat DC’s fish man, $6.5M to $5M. A No. 1 win for STX, which has typically played the middle of the box office chart, would be spectacular.

Anything over $17M would rank as STX’s second best opening of all time behind July 2016’s Bad Moms, which opened to $23.8M. We hear that Upside was a distribution deal for STX; they didn’t acquire full-on rights form Lantern, which absorbed the movie as part of their takeover of The Weinstein Company assets. Hence STX has limited skin in the game with potent upside.

Reportedly, TWC spent around $37.5M to make Upside, which was directed by Neil Burger and also stars Golden Globe Destroyer nominee Nicole Kidman.

Upside‘s Thursday night of $1.1M is right in line with the preview gross of Hart’s PG-13-rated action film Ride Along, which went on to post a $14.4M Friday during MLK weekend in 2014 and a $41.5M three-day, as well as the $800K milked from his Wedding Ringer, which did $6.9M on its first Friday (including previews) and a $20.6M weekend in 2015. It’s also not far from the $1.35M Thursday night earned by Night School.

STX is using different comps, showing that Upside is besting the Thursday nights of such older-skewing titles as Book Club ($625K Thursday, $4.7M Friday, $13.5M opening) and New Line’s Game Night ($1M Thursday, $5.5M Friday, $17M opening).

If Aquaman rebounds Saturday, Warners will have bragging rights that they’ve held No. 1 four weeks straight on one film. The last time that occurred was with 2008’s The Dark Knight. Count on Aquaman crossing $1 billion either tomorrow or Sunday at the global B.O.
Focus Features

Sony/Bona Film’s A Dog’s Way Home will find his way to third place with an estimated $3.5M today and a $11M-$13M opening. Sony will also have fourth place with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse‘s fifth weekend earning $7.5M-$9.5M, for a running total on the high end of $148.2M.

Focus Features’ On the Basis of Sex –remarkably without any awards season heat–jumps to fifth place with $6M-$8M in Weekend 3 and a Friday around $2.5M.

Keanu Reeves’ sci-fi drama Replicas is powerless with $1.5M today and $4M over the weekend per industry sources.

PREVIOUSLY, Friday AM: STXfilms’ release of Lantern Entertainment’s The Upside drew $1.1M last night from 7 PM shows at 2,460 theaters. The Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston remake of the French hit $426M-plus grossing film The Intouchables will play at 3,080 locations starting today with an eye on $10M-$14M by Sunday.

The Upside was mired in the legal fallout of the Weinstein Co. untangling, and originally premiered to a great response at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. Originally, TWC was planning to do an awards campaign around the film. In the wake of Lantern taking over TWC, STXfilms partnered with Lantern to handle global rights on the film, a story which Deadline exclusively reported. The Upside currently has a low 34% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s another weekend of the studios taking it easy with a majority of lower budget product hitting the marquee, some of it counter-programming. Two reasons why we’re not seeing fresh event product out there is because Warner Bros./DC’s Aquaman is still going strong with an estimated fourth weekend of $20M (-35%) plus Universal/BVI/Blumhouse’s Glass is poised to shatter MLK B.O. records next weekend. The Upside is here this weekend instead of next so that it can play into the MLK weekend, and get some momentum as Glass will soak up most of the air in the four-day holiday. We originally heard $70M for the four-day weekend on the M. Night Shyamalan-directed sequel, but other tracking services have it between $54M-$64M which is still extremely robust.

By Sunday, Aquaman should be $10M shy of the $300M mark stateside, but worldwide he’ll be thrusting himself past $1 billion worldwide.

Sony/Bona Film has the family canine film A Dog’s Way Home based on the W. Bruce Cameron novel, who also penned A Dog’s Purpose, which became an Amblin/Universal movie. Way Home is not a sequel. The pic earned $535K at 2,657 locations that started at 5PM. The studio is expecting a $9M-$10M opening. The pic, directed by Charles Martin Smith, cost a reported $18M net and will play at 3,090 locations. A Dog’s Purpose opened to $18.2M back in January 2017 and made $205M WW off a $22M budget before P&A. Rated PG, A Dog’s Way Home chronicles the heartwarming adventure of Bella, a dog who embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human. Meanwhile, Sony’s PG-13 horror pic from last weekend Escape Room should do around $9M, -50%, in weekend 2 after making $23.5M in its first week.

Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns will wedge herself in between the two with an expected $10M fourth weekend, -37%, for a running total of $153.4M.

Entertainment Studios also held previews for their 2017 TIFF acquisition Replicas last night which earned $200K at 1,630 theaters. Byron Allen picked up the North American rights to the Keanu Reeves sci-fi drama for $4M at the festival. The pic will have an impossible time breaking through this weekend with an 11% RT score and B.O. projection around $4M. Reeves plays a synthetic biologist, who after losing his family in a car accident, will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science.

We’re also apt to see some movement among the Golden Globe winners, specifically Golden Globe best drama picture and actor winner Bohemian Rhapsody which in weekend 11 expands from 1,080 to 1,334 sites with more than 750 of those playing a never-before experienced ‘sing-along’ version of the film which was a stunt that Fox did with The Greatest Showman last year. The Freddie Mercury biopic counts $195.3M at the domestic box office; Fox will get this to $200M.

Also Universal will expand Golden Globe best comedy winner Green Book gradually as we head into Oscar noms moving from 566 theaters to around 650 today. The Participant Media/DreamWorks co-production currently counts $36.4M at the domestic box office.

Annapurna is expanding Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk from 335 sites to 1,018 with an eye on $3.5M in weekend 5. The pic has grossed $5.3M to date. Last Sunday Regina King won best supporting actress at the Golden Globes for her portrayal of a woman who is determining to prove the innocence her daughter’s boyfriend faces.

In its third weekend, On the Basis of Sex from Focus Features, is breaking wide to 1,900 locations. Industry projections are around $8M. The movie, which stars Felicity Jones as a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg who takes on the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn laws on gender discrimination, has clocked $4.3M through 17 days of play.

Anthony D’Alessandro, Deadline, 13 січня 2019 року