BOX OFFICE: “Smallfoot” gives “little man” Kevin Hart a run for his “Night School Money”–neck and neck

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This box office prognostication thing, which for me is more reporting on what others are saying they’re finding out from studio tracking, IMDb searches, etc., has few hard and fast truths.

One is that EVERYbody doing it underestimates what will happen when parents want to  get out of the house with little kids on the weekend, and thus lowballs kids’ cartoons.

Another is that EVERYbody has troubling gauging what a comedy will do. Brand name leading man, brand name leading lady, unless it’s a franchise, you just don’t know.

Pre-weekend estimates for Kevin Hart’s latest, “Night School,” two hours, precious few laughs, were all north of $30 million dollars. Hart has successfully paired with everyone from Will Ferrell to Josh Gad, The Rock to Ice Cube. Safe bet, right?

Now, a so-so Thursday night and a middling Friday have dropped those guesses into the $25 million range. 

Comics tend to his their peak appeal, stay there and then fall out of favor and stay out of favor, save for Will Ferrell. Hart may not be falling off a cliff yet, but as he’s reached the producer’s credit/control of his (non concert) films stage of his career, with his ego showing everywhere (ESPECIALLY in those Elephantisis infected concert movies), when he’s pairing his short, struggling characters with runway model beauties as girlfriends, he loses his appeal. Look at Sandler’s slide — a schlub who started turning up in pictures with one absurdly pretty or ridiculously young co-star after another and grew less relatable (and more “star” delusional) in the process. We’re starting to see that with Hart, who has another year or two at the very top (ensemble pictures like “Jumanji” are where he excels), maybe. Maybe not. Co-star Tiffany Haddish is on the cusp of over-exposed.
“Smallfoot” was always figured, being a non-franchise from the less “brand name recognized” Warners Animation, to have $22-25 million in it. Deadline.com is saying $23.6 million, still. But Deadline is always 15-20% off on kids’ films. So it’s anybody’s race, as of Sat. AM.  And the movie? It’s cute. It works. 

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” looked like a monster hit last weekend, but it has taken a steep dive — not precipitous, but not a sign that “everybody loved it and is telling his or her friends”) — and will clear $12 million, at this rate. It could have a big Saturday, too, but that’s a steep drop from weekend one.

“Hell Fest” can’t even better “The Nun” on the latter film’s fourth weekend of release, competing with for that same horror audience dollar. But even without any marketing at all from Lionsgate/CBS, even without a star (save for horror veteran Tony Todd), even with bad reviews, it’s headed towards $4 to 5 million.

“The Nun” is over $108 and still counting.

The movies with legs, holding audience week to week, are the under-served target audience comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” which is over $165 million, and the smart,  darkly funny “chick lit thriller” “A Simple Favor” ($43-45 and counting). The OTHER thing those two pics have in common, leading man Henry Golding. Wonder how far his quote is going up?

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