UPDATED NEWS: Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston Pic ‘The Upside’ May Beat ‘Aquaman’ At Box Office

3RD UPDATE, Friday 11:39PM: In a slow weekend, STXfilms is reaping the box office spoils with The Upside on course to make $19.3M, which would rep the studio’s first No. 1 opening title since launching its theatrical arm in August 2015.

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

STX’s distribution of Lantern’s Upside is unexpectedly beating Warner Bros/DC’s Aquaman at this point in time, which is looking at a fourth weekend of $15.5M, -50%, and the Neil Burger-directed dramedy is over-indexing its industry tracking ($10M-$14M) significantly. Some rival studio projections think the film could even hit $20M. Upside easily won today, propped by $1.1M previews, with $7M over Aquaman‘s fourth Friday which earned $4.5M.

Some wondered why STX wasn’t releasing this movie next weekend over MLK, which has been 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). Also, why launch an awards campaign for this movie when Green Book (a kind of, sort of similar story) is soaking up all the love? When STXfilms entered a partnership with Lantern Entertainment to handle the film, they treated the title like their own. The studio worked with Burger and the producers to trim Upside from an R to PG-13, and that assisted with the pic’s playability: With an A CinemaScore tonight for Upside, it’s clear critics –who blasted the dramedy with 34% on Rotten Tomatoes– aren’t on the same page with audiences.

What’s also driving business here for Upside? Women over 25 who rep 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 wide on Upside with 45% Caucasians, 25% African American, and 19% Hispanic.

Also STXfilms kept their P&A reasonable and targeted on Upside at less than $30M, and iSpot shows the Burbank, CA-based media company shelled out less in TV spots at $7M than the competition: 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, at a $10.5M TV spend.

Social media monitor RelishMix reports that Upside‘s social media universe is exceptional at 222.5M across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube views, and Instagram pumped greatly by Hart’s 126M social reach. “But, even if his reach was discounted, Upside would still exceed the genre average handily,” says RelishMix. Online chatter leans positive per RelishMix: “Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston fans think this combination of traditionally dramatic (Cranston) and comedic (Hart) actors sounds great.  Many in this side of discussion 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.”

Warner Bros.

Currently the distance between Upside and Aquaman is wide, and it would take an enormous jump on Saturday (like in the +80%-90% range over Friday) by the super seaman to reclaim No. 1. But Warners has nothing to cry about because Aquaman will be their fifth title in the history of the studio –third for a DC film– to cross $1 billion this Sunday 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).

Sony

Sony/Bona’s Film A Dog’s Way Home is coming in third with $11.2M, a meh result for a movie that cost $18M. 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), but this feature take on the W. Bruce Cameron book 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 likely mirror that canine pic’s trajectory which opened to $12.1M and ended its domestic run at $42.6M.

As far as those who aren’t going to see the movie, “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 he 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.

Focus Features’ wide break of On the Basis of Sex is looking at $6M at 1,923 theaters. Exits are excellent with a solid A CinemaScore, 4 1/2 stars on PostTrak, and a 62% definite recommend. Females over 25 showed up at 54% and loved the Ruth Bader Ginsburg movie the most at 87%. Men over 25 were the second biggest draw here repping 27% of the crowd.  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 $3,1K.

Entertainment Studios

Replicas has sparked out with $2.4M and a C CinemaScore. Critics hate it more than audiences at 11% Rotten. 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 on Replicas because it has an awfully low social media universe 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 late plot twist, that 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 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.

CHART COMING….

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 reportedThe Upside currently has a low 34% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Aquaman

Warner Bros.

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

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.

Replicas

TIFF

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.

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