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‘Good Boys’ Tops Box Office, Bringing Hope For Original Comedies

Tom Brueggemann

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Universal is shaking off the damage from pulling “The Hunt” from release, but it can take comfort in the surprise showing of R-rated comedy “Good Boys.” Not only is it the first original film to reach number one since “Us” in March (another Universal title), but it also shows the depth of the studio’s lower-budget slate.

“Good Boys” pushed a Universal franchise, “Hobbs & Shaw,” from the top spot, and created the rare case when a non-Disney studio held the top two spots. The week also came with four new wide releases: Two were sequels (“The Angry Birds Movie 2” and “47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), both of which failed to do more than mediocre business. “Blinded By the Light” and “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” both targeted older audiences and struggled to gain attention, though the former — a Bruce Springsteen-inspired crowd pleaser — seemed to show initial word-of-mouth appeal.

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A stronger than expected Saturday, which boosted the totals of most films from initial estimates, pushed initial weekend totals to a little under $120 million. However, this weekend still reflects an estimated $10 million shortfall against last year. The year-over-year gap stands at 7.5%, or over $600 million.

“Good Boys,” like the three other biggest non-franchise domestic successes this year (“Us,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Rocket Man”) is R-rated. Studios dodge this rating for most top budget, mass-audience  blockbusters; it’s possible that the rating helps set these films apart.

R-rated comedies featuring underage boys is a theatrical tradition that goes back to “Porky’s” in 1981. (Universal’s own 1999 “American Pie” became a franchise in its own right.) Here, “Good Boys” includes spying on a sexy neighbor, viewing internet porn in preparation for a kissing party, and other similar exploits; the difference here is that the kids are pre-teens.

Produced for $20 million, it’s the directorial debut of “The Office” veteran writer Gene Stupnitzky. With a $21 million opening, it falls in the range of mid-level success like “Bridesmaids,” “Old School,” “There’s Something About Mary,” and, yes, “Porky’s.” Throw in the recent dearth of comedies and even though $21 million isn’t huge an opening, and it’s a low #1 even for mid-August, it remains impressive.

Last year, “Crazy Rich Asians” opened to $26.5 million and grossed $174 million domestic, a multiple of over six times. That’s tough to duplicate, but it does show that a comedy with good word of mouth with little competition can ride a wave at this time of year.

“The Upside” in January was the last comedy to place #1. And while Jordan Peele’s “Us” was original, the success of “Get Out” gave it a strong presell. For “Good Boys,” it was the rare case when an original concept seemed to push it to success.

Two years ago, the British-produced shark thriller “47 Meters Down” saw modest success on a $5 million budget, with a surprising $44 million domestic total from an $11 million opening. The sequel opened to $9 million, which is better than expected. “Uncaged” doubled the budget, but given likely decent foreign pre-sales, it should be at least a minor success.

The shark movie grossed slightly less “The Angry Birds Movie 2.” The animated sequel opened last Tuesday, with a six-day total of $16.2 million, way down from the nearly $40 million earned by the 2016 original. This one had a smaller budget ($65 million this time), but it needed a much better initial result. However, foreign holds promise; the earlier effort grossed $244 million overseas.

Second-week players saw last week’s best opener “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” fall 52% — not bad for horror, and it likely felt some competition from “Good Boys.” The $25 million-budgeted film is already at $40 million.

Paramount’s more expensive “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” fell about the same, but is only at $34 million so far. Dog-centered “The Art of Dancing in the Rain” (Disney, a Fox holdover) dropped 45% and managed to hold on in the top 10.

Standout among all holdovers is “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Quentin Tarantino’s film dropped only 35%. Even more impressive, it did so while losing 40% of its theaters, and the per-theater average slightly increased. Now at $114 million, it has a real shot at $130-140 million.

The Top  Ten

1. Good Boys (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 60;  Est. budget: $20 million

$21,000,000 in 3,204 theaters; PTA: $6,554,000; Cumulative: $21,000,000

2. Hobbs & Shaw (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$14,140,000 (-44%) in 3,757 theaters (-587); PTA: $3,764; Cumulative: $133,742,000

3. The Lion King (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #3

$11,900,000 (-41%) in 3,560 theaters (-660); PTA: $3,343; Cumulative: $496,108,000

4. The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 60;  Est. budget: $65 million

$10,500,000 in 3,869 theaters; PTA: $2,714; Cumulative: $16,237,000

5. Scary Tales to Tell in the Dark (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$10,500,000 (-52%) in 3,135 theaters (no change); PTA: $3,206; Cumulative: $40,217,000

6. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (Entertainment Studios) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic: 43;  Est. budget: $12 million

$9,000,000 in 2,853 theaters; PTA: $3,155; Cumulative: $9,000,000

7. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$8,500,000 (-51%) in 3,735 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,276; Cumulative: $33,910,000

8. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$7,600,000 (-35%) in 2,504 theaters (-1,003); PTA: $3,035; Cumulative: $114,348,000

9. Blinded By the Light (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 71;  Est. budget: $15 million (acquisition cost)

$4,450,000 in 2,307 theaters; PTA: $1,929; Cumulative: $4,450,000

10. The Art of Racing in the Rain (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$4,403,000 (-46%) in 2,765 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,929; Cumulative: $16,881,000

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