Good Boys is first R-rated comedy to top box office in 3 years

The R-rated comedy, left for dead by some Hollywood studios, again reached No.1 at the box office over the weekend thanks to the raunchy coming-of-age tale Good Boys, about a trio of 12-year-olds on a crude misadventure.

Seth Rogen-produced film earns $21 million US according to studio estimates, dethroning Hobbs & Shaw

Good Boys nabbed top spot at the North American box office this weekend, becoming the first R-rated comedy to do so in three years. (Ed Araquel/Universal Pictures via the Associated Press)

The R-rated comedy, left for dead by some Hollywood studios, again reached No.1 at the box office over the weekend thanks to the raunchy coming-of-age tale Good Boys, about a trio of 12-year-olds on a crude misadventure.

Good Boys surpassed expectations to debut with $21 million US, according to studio estimates Sunday, dethroning the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw, which slid to second with $14.1 million in its third weekend. Not since Melissa McCarthy's The Boss came in No. 1 all the way back in April 2016 has an R-rated comedy topped the North American box office.

"This is like a unicorn sighting," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore.

In recent years, R-rated horror has largely taken the place of R-rated comedy at the box office, as Hollywood has increasingly ceded the genre to TV and streaming services. But Universal Pictures, which released Good Boys, has kept the flame. The studio was behind The Boss as well as the intervening years' highest grossing domestic comedies: 2017's Girls Trip and 2018's Night School.

Good Boys broke out of a crowded late-summer field of new releases. The weekend's other new widely released films — the animated sequel The Angry Birds Movie 2, the shark attack sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, the Bruce Springsteen-inspired drama Blinded by the Light and Richard Linklater's Cate Blanchett-led Where'd You Go Bernadette — all fizzled.

Good Boys rode a buzzy premiere at South By Southwest, good reviews (80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and the imprimatur of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Good Boys is much like a tween version of Superbad) to notch the best opening for an original comedy this year. Second place is Universal's body-switch comedy Little.

Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (who co-wrote the script with Lee Eisenberg), Good Boys stars Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon as sixth graders trying to make it to their first kissing party. The movie's much-watched red-band trailer traded on its ironies. As Rogen says, Tremblay, Williams and Noon are all too young to see their own movie alone.

Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay, from left, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams star in Good Boys as sixth graders trying to make it to their first kissing party (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

Jim Orr, distribution chief for Universal, credited Rogen and Goldberg's Point Grey Pictures and the film's clever marketing for the film's performance.

"This is a genre that is very difficult to do and we're having great success as a studio with a very diverse slate," Orr said. "One of the common denominators there is our marketing department. They just over-deliver constantly with a broad range of films."

The challenge of Good Boys was to turn out moviegoers older than the movie's pipsqueak protagonists, and it did. Only seven per cent of the audience was under age 18, according to Universal, though 41 per cent was under 25. Crowds split evenly between the sexes: 52 per cent male, 48 per cent female.

The release strategies behind some of the weekend's other new films were harder to discern.

Angry Birds 2 flails

Sony's The Angry Birds Movie 2, on a budget of $65 million, opened with a paltry $10.5 million domestically, though it added $19.4 million internationally. Hoping to snarl kids before school starts, Sony released the film on Tuesday. But it didn't come close to the $38.2 million domestic debut of the first instalment in 2016 despite notably better reviews (76 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes).

Angry Birds 2 opened with $10.5 million US domestically, which was considered a disappointment. (Sony Pictures via the Associated Press)

Sony's Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, however, grossed $53.7 million overseas after expanding to 46 markets — the largest foreign launch for any Quentin Tarantino film, and the best worldwide haul for any film this weekend.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged, from Entertainment Studios, also showed little bite. It debuted with $9 million, a slight downtick from the $11.2 million the first one opened with in 2017.

A pair of films that might have been platform released to build word-of-mouth instead opened wide in bids to stand out in the traditional dumping-ground of late summer. But the results were mixed.

Critically-acclaimed Blinded by the Light has lukewarm opening

Blinded by the Light, which Warner Bros. plunked down $15 million for at the Sundance Film Festival, took in $4.5 million from 2,307 locations. The film, which has been warmly reviewed, is about a British-Pakistani teen growing up in 1980s England whose life is transformed after he discovers Springsteen.

In Blinded by the Light, Viveik Kalra plays Javed, a Pakistani-British teen whose life is transformed when a friend introduces him to Bruce Springsteen’s music in 1987 Britain. (Nick Wall/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via the Associated Press)

And United Artists' Where'd You Go Bernadette grossed $3.5 million from 2,404 locations. Based on Maria Semple's 2012 comic novel, Linklater's film earned lukewarm reviews for its tale of a missing mother (Blanchett).

The Good Boys debut gave Universal, also behind Hobbs & Shaw its third straight weekend at No. 1 and 10th this year — second only to Disney.

With two weeks to go, the overall summer movie season is running 1.9 per cent behind the pace of last summer, according to Comscore.



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