Friday Box Office Analysis
By David Mumpower
September 29, 2018
Three new movies entered the marketplace this weekend, and audiences gave some love to all three. The impact of all this new blood is a pleasant amount of turnover in the top five after a fairly stagnant few weeks.
The most popular of the new films this weekend is Night School, a romantic comedy with impressive bloodlines. The movie stars Kevin Hart, who seems to have chemistry with every single person in Hollywood. His comic foil is Tiffany Haddish, one of the It Women in Hollywood right now. Haddish broke out in last year’s Girls Trip, directed by BOP fave Malcolm D. Lee, and the director has reunited with her for this film.
With Hart, Haddish, and the director of Undercover Brother involved, expectations were high for Night School. It largely met those expectations. Its Friday box office total of $9.5 million included $1.35 million in Thursday sneaks. So, the true Friday total is $8.15 million.
The film was tracking for a performance between $25 and $30 million. It should fall comfortably in that range, probably around $26.5 million. Regrettably, reviews aren’t great, but its Cinemascore of A- indicates that opening day crowds were largely pleased. Given the film’s modest budget of $29 million, this project is full of win for Universal.
Night School isn’t guaranteed to win the weekend, though. The outsider candidate is Smallfoot, although the Friday numbers don’t reflect a tight race. The Warner Bros. animated release with the clever hook, a race of Yetis questioning the existence of humans, grossed $6.4 million on Friday. Roughly $850,000 of that came from Thursday sneaks, giving the film a true Friday of $5.65 million.
With a gap of $3.1 million at the start, Night School seems like the certain winner, right? Well, comedies like this one tend to perform strongest on Friday, while family-friendly animated films are known to have weekend multipliers of 4 or more. An exceptional performance along those lines would give Smallfoot a puncher’s chance of pulling off the upset. Personally, I’m projecting a three-day total of $23 million.
Like Night School, Smallfoot generally satisfied the Friday crowd, as it had an A- Cinemascore. Smallfoot’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% is more than double Night School’s 30%, though. Of course, the only number that really matters here is the budget. Warner Bros. spent $80 million on Smallfoot, only to get beaten by a film with a budget of less than $30 million. Universal’s got clear bragging rights this weekend.
The third movie this weekend is the latest lazy horror film to come out a few weeks before Halloween. Hellfest is a low-budget joint production of CBS Films and Lionsgate that will be close to profitable by the end of the weekend. It cost only $5.5 million to create and earned $2 million on Friday.
The film is objectively horrible by standard movie metrics, earning a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score and an atrocious C Cinemascore from opening day audiences. Still, $5 million this weekend is a win for CBS Films given the modest production cost. The mini-major continues to make savvy business decisions.
Out of last weekend’s openers, the only one that mattered was The House with a Clock in its Walls. Last Friday, it earned $7.8 million, although $840,000 of that came from Thursday sneaks. So, the true Friday number was $7 million. Yesterday, the Jack Black supernatural thriller grossed $3.1 million, a 56% Friday-over-Friday drop. It should be in line for $11.5 million this weekend, which would give it $44 million after ten days. That’s a terrific performance give its $42 million budget.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I failed to point out that Crazy Rich Asians has finally fallen out of the top five this week. The modern equivalent to My Big Fat Greek Wedding has dazzled BOP analysts with its retro display of box office legs, a phenomenon that’s largely dead these days.
For 41 straight days, the wonderful romantic comedy staked out a spot in the top five before finally dropping out on September 25th. Yesterday, it claimed seventh place with $1.23 million and is headed for another $3.9 million this weekend. It will be around $165 million by this time on Sunday, making it the best box office story we’ve had in ages.