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3rd Update, Friday 11:45 PM: Refresh for chart Universals Night School is coming in lower than its expected $30M with a three-day at $25.9M off a $9.3M Friday, and Warner Bros. Yeti family toon Smallfoot isnt far behind with a revised industry estimate of $23.6M. If the Karey Kirkpatrick-Jason Reisig feature toon swells more than 60% tomorrow over its $6.4M Friday (which includes $850K Thursday night previews), it may just nudge Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish to second place.

Last weekend, AmblinsThe House With a Clock In Its Walls saw a 47% surge on Saturday catapulting its weekend estimate from $24.6M on Friday to a near $27M opening by Sunday EOD. The Eli Roth family feature is taking third with an estimated $12.3M, -54%, steeper than projected as its in Smallfoots shadow.

Still, even though Night School is coming in under its tracking, a $25M+ opening for a comedy in this marketplace, any studio would envy, especially with this pics 29% Rotten Tomatoes reviews. Uni already owns the years previous high for a comedy, the R-rated teen comedy Cockblockers ($20.5M). The opening is also very good in regards to the pics production cost which is net under $30M.

In regards to Night School dimming the lights, know that these adult comedies make their cash in the late night hours, so Saturday and Sunday morning could show a different story. Some blame the bad reviews for slowing Night School down, which is the bane of every comedys existence, however, note that other critically slammed Hart movies such as Get Hard and the Ride Alongs beat that reception and won over audiences with $30M-plus openings. Universal sold this as a broad comedy which could cross over various demos, and while it looks like an R-rated comedy particularly with the pungent Hart and Haddish, its PG-13 in an effort to grab a younger crowd.

Even though Night School has a great social media wattage of 214M, which is 95% greater than the average African American comedy, further bolstered by Harts powerhouse social following (121M across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and Haddishs (5M), entertainment data analyst RelishMix noticed a mixed reaction among potential moviegoers reporting, “While Hart and Haddish fans are definitely lining up, other comedy moviegoers and a certain high brow contingent are advising theyre skipping the film because of the negative stereotypes it celebrates…Its arguable that this contingent is just not getting the joke, but the volume is palpable in a year that saw Black Panther dominate the box office. Its also possible that Harts star has hit its zenith, with some of his fans claiming that they still find him funny, but his schtick is getting a little old.”

Those moviegoers who got off the couch and went to Night School loved it with an A- CinemaScore, which is the same grade that Harts Central Intelligence earned, above Ride Along 2 (B+) and Get Hard (B), yet filing below Girls Trips (A+) and Ride Along (A). PostTrak audiences gave the movie 3.5 stars.

Warner Bros.

Smallfoot also gets an A- which is the same as Warner Bros. Storks and better than DreamWorks Animations Captain Underpants B+. PostTrak exits loved the Yeti movie at 4 stars. The movie based on Sergio Pablos book Yeti Tracks has impressed critics with its “thoughtful lesson about tolerance, division and learning to see from the perspective of others” per CNNs Brian Lowry while the Washington Posts Jane Horwitz writes, “The debunking of a creation myth isnt the sort of narrative that usually drives an animated Hollywood comedy. Yet after a rather bland beginning, that is exactly what sets Smallfoot apart, along with some inspired slapstick stunts. This entertaining fantasy has intellectual ballast, but its cleverly disguised.”

RelishMix compliments Warners on getting the fun message out in a loud way on social media –the pic has an enormous social media universe thats close to 400M across FB, Twitter, IG and YouTube views–with LeBron James, Channing Tatum and Zendaya contributing 61% of the movies social reach. In total, the activated cast counts over 245M social media followers, “one of the most social casts weve seen in months, maybe since Infinity War,” exclaims RelishMix. The breadth of Smallfoots big foot on social is further propelling the positive word of mouth from those whove caught early screenings.

James is the voice of the Yeti Gwangi, and RelishMix is citing the “LeBron James” effect in impacting the pics social media marketing for the better. “The Los Angeles Lakers basketball star shared clips and pics of his familys visit to the Yeti Village, which Warner Bros constructed as a real life experience for families to enjoy (in So-Cal),” reports the social metrics corp. James appearance with Tatum on Ellen where they performed ridiculous stunts has drawn 1.5M YouTube views since Sept. 12.

Theres a trick to making microbudget mushroom at the box office and time and time again, Blumhouse and Universal (and New Line whose Nun is earning $5.4M in 5th place and $108.9M total in weekend 4) know how to take films that were made for nothing and send their ticket sales skyward. CBS and Lionsgates Hell Fest with a production cost of $5.5M before P&A wasnt going after a wide audience but a narrow genre fanbase, plus females 17-24 and males over 25. CBS/Lionsgate did a lot of stunting including a Six Flags partnership with replicas of the films maze at top parks, a retro 80s trailer, big TV spot splashes built around American Horror Story, The Purge (series) and Fear The Walking Dead. Additionally cable was used to pursue young females via MTV, VH1, Bravo, E!, Telemundo and Univision with a robust audio campaign aimed to get those millennials on Spotify and Pandora. Six Flags also supported Hell Fest with local TV and digital advertising, a partnership that runs through Halloween night. In addition Hell Fest as promoted at numerous haunted houses, mazes, escape rooms and genre conventions including DragonCon (Atlanta), Wizard World (Chicago), Midsummer Scream (LA), ScareLA and more. There was also an Unity 8-bit interactive ad game. Yet despite all these efforts, Hell Fest is ringing up a meager $4.7M. Critics can make the difference in propelling original horror films and appeared this one was shielded from them with only 11 reviews reporting a 35% RT score led by IndieWires Michael Nordine blasting, “If it were any good, it could have been the movie of the moment. Instead, itll have been forgotten by Halloween.” RelishMix says about the online chatter, “Plenty of other fans of the genre name a myriad of movies that theyve seen before that seem to be exactly what Hell Fest is offering. This majority contingent of convo suggests that theyll wait for the after market, should they decide to see Hell Fest at all.” Hell Fest gets a C CinemaScore and two stars on PostTrak, so that tells you what the audience thinks about it.

PureFlixs new label Pinnacle Peak Pictures which features inspirational stories that are cast and family driven has the modern re-telling of Little Women and that conceit with its fresh-face cast and Lea Thompson isnt enough to create a stampede with only $1M at 643 locations. Critics arent fans at 38% and thats what you need if youre going to make a dent with this Louisa May Alcott reboot.

Briarcliff

Meanwhile, last weekends entries are in free-fall with Briarcliff Entertainments Fahrenheit 11/9 down 63% with an estimated $1.1M and running total of $5.1M. Dont blame anti-Trump fatigue, the movie went way too wide at 1,719 theaters. Its a Michael Moore doc, not a Steven Spielberg drama. Last weekend, the top 10% of the docs runs made close to 40% of the pics business; proof that it was best kept as a specialty engagement. If that was the case, the headlines would be marveling over the theater average which would have subtracted all the bad business press. Amazons Life Itself is down 55% with $966K and a 10-day total of $3.9M while NEON/AGBOs Assassination Nation is bleeding -80% with $209K and a $1.7M running gross by Sunday.

On the specialty side, National Geographics survival doc Free Solo about Alex Honnold becoming the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemites 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall sans ropes or safety gear looks to be notching the best theater average of the year to date with $67K or $268K at four theaters. Thats higher than the $65K opening screen average of A24s Eighth Grade. Fox Searchlights Robert Redford swan song The Old Man and The Gun has a current estimated theater average of $28K or $141K at five NY and LA locations.

2nd Update, Friday 11:41AM: Early read here on Universals Night School which is tracking for a $9.5M opening day and a weekend thats between $27M-$29M. While $30M would be a sweet take, thats still an impressive number in these times for a comedy, Uni had the previous best opening this year with its R-rated teen pic Blockers at $20.6M.

Warner Bros. animated pic Smallfoot will own second with a $6M Friday (a few cents more than their 2016 Storks $5.7M opening day), and a three-day thats between $20M and $22.5M. Two films in the final weekend of September, opening to $20M, seriously, exhibitors arent complaining especially with this month on track to be the second best ever with around $621M after last years record $698.5M.

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Amblins via Uni The House With a Clock In Its Walls looking at a second weekend estimate of $13.7M, -48%, for a 10-day of $46M. Saturday and Sunday matinees are the power times for both Smallfoot and House.

Lionsgates A Simple Favor looks to continue to pull in women with an estimated weekend of $7.3M, -29% for a running total in weekend 3 of $43.77M. Thats ahead of Blake Livelys previous LG/Lakeshore release, the romantic drama The Age of Adaline ($42.6M) Today the Paul Feig-directed pic looks to make $2.3M, -30% from a week ago.

CBS and Lionsgates Hell Fest is landing in 5th with a $2.2M opening day, including $435K previews from last night, and an opening between $4M-$6M. The R-rated horror pic from Gregory Plotkin only cost $5.5M to make with Tucker Tooley co-financing.

More genre: 20th Century Foxs The Predator eyes third weekend in the $3M-$4M range, -62% with a running total by Sunday stateside of $47.9M. Predators, the previous Robert Rodriguez-produced chapter from July 2010, ended its domestic box office run at $52M, so this latest version is closing in on that figure.

1st Update, 7:12AM: Universals Night School threw its doors open for session last night, ringing up $1.35 million at 2,500 theaters with showtimes that began at 7 PM.

With a projected opening weekend of $30M at 3,010 theaters, the Tiffany Haddish-Kevin Hart PG-13 movie is poised to be a box office anomaly for comedies, which have suffered greatly in recent months: The last big openings for a comedy were last years R-rated Girls Trip with Haddish ($31.2M, also a career record box office opening for Night School director Malcolm D. Lee) and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlbergs Daddys Home 2 ($29.6M).

Fandango is reporting that advance ticket sales for Night School are outpacing previous Hart comedies, the PG-13 Central Intellgience ($35.5M opening) and Ride Along 2 ($35.2M), at the same point in their sales cycle. Night School is 26% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, but that dismal grade wont mess up its business this weekend. For R-rated raunchy fare, its another story.

Night Schools preview last night came in higher than Harts-Ice Cube Ride Along movies (part 2 scored $1.26M and part 1 made $1.06M), but filed under Central Intelligences $1.835M, the R-rated Hart-Ferrell comedy Get Hard ($1.8M), and Haddishs Girls Trip which made $1.7M last July (many will say its a female-geared R-rated comedy, but the pic wound up playing broad).

For the second weekend in a row, Universal is expected to notch the No. 1 spot after last weekends Amblin movie The House With a Clock In Its Walls made $26.6M. That movie is set to ease 40% in Weekend 2 with around $16M, raising its 10-day cume by Sunday to $48.2M. Last night House made $1M at 3,592 locations, bringing its first-week tally to $32.2M.

Warner Bros Animation title Smallfoot is now tracking between $25M-$27M at 4,131 venues and held 4 PM previews last night, earning $850,000, which is $10K higher than Houses Thursday night previews last week. The pic also beat the previews of DreamWorks Animations Captain Underpants which earned $650K, and WBs own animated Storks which made $435K before a $21.3M opening in September 2016. Smallfoot has a 75% fresh RT score, higher than Houses 66% fresh and Storks 65% fresh.

CBS/Lionsgate has the Gale Anne Hurd- and Tucker Tooley-produced R-rated horror title Hell Fest, which kicked off last night with $435K. Its looking at a $5M-$8M opening at 2,297 venues.

Pinnacle Peak via PureFlix has the modern-day reboot of Louisa May Alcotts Little Women from filmmaker Clare Niederpruem, which at 643 venues is estimated at $1M.

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