Night School achieves a satisfactory grade, Smallfoot leaves a mid-sized footprint, Hell Fest ends up like Fyre Fest, The Old Man & The Gun and a lot of money, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
It’s been a hot minute since we had our last proper Kevin Hart vehicle… two entire years’ worth, to be precise. We’ve had four Denzel Washington vehicles in the time it’s taken Kevin Hart to get back into the bunker and make another one of his – Jumanji doesn’t count since that was a mainstream studio blockbuster with an ensemble lead cast rather than a specific showcase for one or two leading actors/actresses; SEMANTICS – and Denzel’s only supposed to appear in one film a year! The drought, fortunately/unfortunately (delete depending on personal preference), came to an end this past weekend with Night School which teamed Hart up with woman-of-the-moment Tiffany Haddish to see if their combined star-powers could overcome an apparently very-bad-indeed movie. Turns out the answer was “yes” as Night School cruised to the top spot with $28 million. That is admittedly the lowest opening weekend for a Hart vehicle since 2015’s godawful The Wedding Ringer (which barely scraped $20 million) but it’s also not far below the $30 million range he usually operates in despite a relatively extended absence from live-action comedy screens. The real winner, though, is of course producer Will Packer who will continue to milk the teets of Black America with films of wildly-inconsistent quality for years to come.
In second place we have the latest of Warner Animation Group’s struggles to maintain the momentum set by the first two LEGO Movies with their Bigfoot musical, Smallfoot. Much like with Storks, the studio’s sole other original movie prior to this – because this is a separate entity to the Warner Bros. Animation that existed in the 90s and early-00s; SO MANY SEMANTICS TODAY – Smallfoot’s opening wasn’t exactly a failure but it also didn’t set any houses on fire either, opening with $23 million. The real question will be seeing what kind of legs it can carry into the next few weekends with some stiff competition ahead, including that most kid-friendly of properties Venom which is four days away (may God have mercy on us all). Speaking of competition, although not of the stiff kind, Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in its Walls did not have a great hold from its summit-debuting weekend, dropping 53% in its sophomore for a spoopy haul of $12.5 million. And speaking of horror shows, the Gregory Plotkin-directed slasher Hell Fest, which you knew was going to be good because Lionsgate dumped it in late-September as far away from Halloween as possible in the hopes of attracting some pity bucks, was #cancelled due to lack of interest; $5 million in sixth place, barely failing to cover its miniscule budget.
Before we move on to the Limited Releases, let’s check in with the other films released last week whilst I was down with the flu because we’ve got a fascinating bunch lined up. Michael Moore’s fired-up attention-courting anti-Trump piece Fahrenheit 11/9 has been dying big time up on the largest stage Moore’s had since Sicko in 2007. Last weekend it scraped its way to a $3 million opening and this weekend it’s out of the Top 10 altogether, dropping 62% to a mere $1.1 million, presumably because everybody that fell within Moore’s target audience were too busy vomiting into various buckets after the sham of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings this past week. Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself, funnily enough, did not benefit from Fogelman going on the (hilariously tone-deaf) offensive against critics and collapsed in overblown tragic fashion befitting one of Fogelman’s insipid screenplays, taking $770,085 in its second weekend. But those are nothing compared to the second weekend of Sam Levinson’s bonkers-sounding Assassination Nation which sank an astonishing 80% from its opening weekend of $1 million to a miserable $202,000. On the brighter side, the adaptation of The Sisters Brothers that Gavin McHugh is super-excited for continues to do well, adding 23 screens in its second weekend for $244,091.
It’s a veritable banquet in Limited Releases, meanwhile, so let’s try and portion this out. Best performing of the lot is not, unbelievably, David Lowery’s The Old Man & the Gun. Robert Redford’s last perhaps final maybe possible-takebacksies role did extremely well, don’t get me wrong, sticking up $150,000 from five cinemas, but it wasn’t the best performing film of the weekend. That would instead go to Free Solo, the National Geographic documentary about a man trying to solo-free-climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft tall El Capitan Wall and just writing that description is triggering the everloving crap out of my fear of heights. It took $300,804 from four screens which not only marks the best per-screen average of the year so far by a longshot ($75,201), but is also the best per-screen average for a documentary ever, finally dethroning An Inconvenient Truth’s $70,333 from 2006, and allowing 2018 at least one inarguably successful Solo movie. Strong in its own right despite having its thunder stolen is Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., a documentary about the radical visionary pop star whose heyday was in the mid-00s/early-10s that isn’t currently stuck deep in The Sunken Place, which can now make $51,373 worth of paper planes from its two screens. Finally (for time reasons), the perennially underrated (and sole owner of my heart) Mary Elizabeth Winstead got another long-overdue lead role, this time in stand-up dramedy All About Nina which took $30,614 from four screens for an OK per-screen average of $7,654.
You flunked the last Full List. Try not to screw up this time or we’ll have to hold you back a week.
US Box Office Results: Friday 28th September 2018 – Sunday 30th September 2018
1] Night School
$28,000,000 / NEW
Seeing it on Thursday so will report back next week. Since I’m also seeing Venom on that day, at least I can safely assume this won’t be the worst thing on that particular trip to the cinema. Please throw that statement back in my face if I am wrong.
$23,020,000 / NEW
What dirt does James Corden have on the entire entertainment industry that means he keeps popping up in everything? Like, it must be especially juicy/filthy/disturbing shit he’s got hidden in various folders because he’s just EVERYWHERE despite NOBODY ASKING HIM TO BE! He’s the cauliflower of the entertainment industry; he just comes with the bag of vegetables for some reason, despite ew, and you would ignore him except that there’s disproportionately more of him than the shit you actually want so that’s, like, half the bag wasted.
3] The House with a Clock in its Walls
$12,510,000 / $44,765,225
Also seeing this on Thursday but I will say that I am very happy to not see or hear that goddamn trailer anymore. I can recite that thing from memory, not kidding, because kids’ movies NEED to have more than three movies in their trailer rotations please God! It’s only ever three and it’s always THE SAME THREE. I get it, your options are limited and I’M the weirdo for seeing multiple films a day, but think of my sanity when I’m being forced to hear a line that was neither funny nor witty the first time for the third time within 10 hours?!
4] A Simple Favor
$6,600,000 / $43,066,808
This is absolutely fucking nutso and Paul Feig is a genuine deviant. Nobody else on the site took review duties and I’m struggling with mental blocks so can’t do it myself, but I am here to tell you that A Simple Favor is completely batshit ridiculous and I loved every last second of it. Imagine Gone Girl on steroids but as an erotic thriller for wound-up Type A moms who subscribe to self-help cooking blogs and the power of nanny-cams, and you are about there. It’s GREAT and also hilarious (both unintentionally and completely intentionally because this is way more of a comedy than the marketing let on) and I am so glad that Paul Feig got the chance to make it because he also probably shouldn’t be allowed to make anything like this ever again. I really do think he’s getting off on this.
5] The Nun
$5,435,000 / $109,018,048
If you haven’t seen it before or in a while, go check out Corin Hardy’s haunting stop-motion short film Butterfly sometime. You may also know it in a condensed form because Keane lifted a whole chunk of it for their video to “Bedshaped.”
6] Hell Fest
$5,075,000 / NEW
Since Gregory Plotkin’s other directorial feature was Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, I’m getting the impression that he’s one of those directors who is far better at his day job (editing) than he is at directing.
$4,150,000 / $165,681,775
Now the sixth highest-grossing rom-com in North American history. There’s every chance it could reach There’s Something About Mary’s $176 million haul for fifth (and Pretty Woman’s $178 million for fourth), of course, but I think we’re in the dying stages of this one’s run. Still, hell of a run and I can’t wait for that sequel to grace us with its presence soon enough!
8] The Predator
$3,700,000 / $47,634,251
Something tells me we won’t be seeing any more Predator movies for at least another half-decade, maybe longer. Just a hunch.
9] White Boy Rick
$2,385,000 / $21,714,781
Since I still have nothing to say about this movie that isn’t out here for months, let me instead utilise this space to pimp my review of Mile 22 which is a bag of shite. The film, not the review, I’m very happy with the review.
$1,770,000 / $33,536,908
So, the UK release for this seems to have mysteriously fallen off the face of the earth? Back in August, Peppermint was scheduled for a September 21st release. Then, when I checked two weeks before, it was being given a limited release on that date. Now, it’s vanished completely with no rescheduling. Conveniently, this was around the time that those noxious reviews started coming in, but that didn’t stop STX from infecting good cinemas across the UK with Mile 22 or The Happytime Murders or I Feel Pretty or Gringo… Yeesh, that’s a 2018 for the record books even without Peppermint. Still, now Tony Black wrote this lengthy retrospective on Jennifer Garner’s career for nothing! Imagine how sad that makes him! And how sad it makes Baz Greenland for reviewing the film’s soundtrack despite the fact that he’ll now never get to see the carnage (?) it’s supposed to back! You monsters, STX! How could you?!
Dropped Out: Fahrenheit 11/9, The Meg, Searching
Callum Petch, praise God hallelujah, is still depressed.