Box office: 'Home' exceeds expectations Friday; 'Get Hard' not soft

For DreamWorks Animation, there's no place like "Home."

The studio's latest family film is performing far better at the box office this weekend than industry experts predicted -- and should end up easily claiming No. 1 over the prison comedy "Get Hard."

On Friday, "Home" -- which features a star-studded voice cast including Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Jim Parsons -- grossed $15.6 million, according to an estimate from distributor 20th Century Fox. At this rate, the movie is on pace for a weekend debut of at least $50 million -- about $20 million more than pre-release audience surveys indicated the movie would open with.

The R-rated "Get Hard," which stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, collected $12.9 million on its first day in release. The Warner Bros. comedy will likely end up with around $35 million in ticket sales by the end of the weekend -- a sum in line with early predictions.

"Home" marks a much-needed win for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation. While "How to Train Your Dragon 2" fared well at the box office last summer, the studio's recent attempts at launching new animated franchises have not gone well. "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" failed to take off last year, and forced DWA to take a $57-million write-down; in 2013, "Turbo" cost them $13.5 million.

"Home," which had a hefty budget of $130 million, follows a teenage girl (Rihanna) who enlists the help of a purple alien (Parsons) to track down her mother (Lopez). Moviegoers who saw the movie on Friday seemed to enjoy the picture more than most critics did. Opening-day audiences assigned the film an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, while the movie has only notched a 48% fresh rating on the critic review roundup site Rotten Tomatoes.

"Get Hard," about a wealthy, out-of-touch businessman (Ferrell) who hires his car washer (Hart) to train him for life behind bars, earned a B-grade from filmgoers. That crowds are not reacting negatively to the $40-million film is likely a relief to Warner Bros. following the movie's uncomfortable debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival earlier this month. After the movie played in Texas, one audience member told director Etan Cohen that he found the film "racist" -- a sentiment some critics have shared.

Instead, it looks like the movie will end up being another win for Hart. The 35-year-old stand-up-turned-actor has been busy over the past year, appearing in five films in 2014. His biggest hit to date has been "Ride Along," a buddy cop comedy co-starring Ice Cube that made $134 million domestically and spawned a sequel.

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