Just two days after he was announced as the next host of the Academy Awards, comedian Kevin Hart took to social media to inform his fans that he was stepping away amid mounting furor over “homophobic” jokes and tweets from about a decade earlier. After scrambling to find a replacement that wouldn’t somehow prompt more outrage, the Academy has reportedly given up and decided to go host-less. Meanwhile, Hart’s doing quite well. In fact, his new film just won the box office over the weekend, managing to edge out the thus-far unbeatable “Aquaman.”
While the weekend was admittedly a relatively quiet one for Hollywood, Hart’s new STXfilms-produced project “The Upside” surprised analysts by topping the box office over the weekend, taking in $19.6 million, which surpassed the still impressive fourth weekend take of $17.3 million for the Jason Momoa-starring “Aquaman.”
“With an estimated $19.59 million, STXFilms’s The Upside topped the weekend box office, dramatically outperforming expectations heading into the weekend,” Box Office Mojo reports. “The remake of the popular French film The Intouchables, The Upside stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, and while the reviews were mixed heading into the weekend, opening day audiences seemed to enjoy themselves, giving the film an ‘A’ CinemaScore, which bodes well for the film’s future.”
Deadline notes that this is STX’s first ever No. 1 opening and it’s clearly given them the last laugh after being “often knocked” by rivals for what they’ve characterized as dating missteps — in this case choosing not to open on MLK weekend and dampening chances of an Oscar bid by opening shortly after the new year. Analysts estimated “Upside” would take in $10 to $14 million in its opening weekend, but it bested that by 80-30%.
Deadline quotes STXfilms Motion Picture Group Chairman Adam Fogelson, who said Monday morning that the company’s “efficient” mass-marketing plan, which used a database they’ve been building since they first launched in 2015, is one of the reasons they’re enjoying the box office victory.
“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 Fogelson. “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 also noted that all the buzz over Hart’s past tweets and the Oscars fiasco didn’t seem to impact the film. “All the conversation surrounding Hart’s Oscar hosting situation was divorced from The Upside,” Fogelson said. “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.”
But as Deadline suggests, the buzz didn’t just not hurt the film, it likely helped it.
While Hart enjoys the best scores yet for his performance in a film, the awards ceremony he broke up with appears to be opting not to get in a rebound relationship. According to a report published by Variety last week, the Oscars are “poised to embark on one of the most radical reinventions in the awards show’s long history. For the first time in nearly three decades, the biggest night in movies plans to go without a host, individuals with knowledge of the plans told Variety.”
With no one slated to fill Hart’s role, Variety reports, “show producers are moving forward with a broadcast that will focus on starry skits and play up a high-profile year for music in film, thanks to likely nominees Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, and Kendrick Lamar, one individual involved with the show said.”