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‘Night School’ and ‘Smallfoot’ lead family-friendly box office

Film Title: Night School
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Kevin Hart, left, Tiffany Haddish and Taran Killam in a scene from “Night School.” (Universal Pictures via AP)
(AP)

Family-friendly movies dominated the box office this weekend as three of the top five films boasted a PG or PG-13 rating.

Universal’s PG-13 comedy “Night School” opened in first place with $28 million, according to figures from measurement firm ComScore.

The film, which was expected to earn from $25 million to $30 million, is the year’s biggest comedy opener, handily topping “Blockers’” $20-million opening in April. The movie’s opening marks a rare success for comedy, which has struggled to perform in recent years.

“We’re really proud of that,” said Jim Orr, the studio’s distribution chief. “We’ve had the last three largest original comedy debuts out there and it’s not an easy thing to do. Comedy is going to be tricky and so great filmmakers, great marketing, great release strategy [is why] we’re able to enjoy that kind of success.”

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Starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, “Night School” follows a class of misfits determined to get their GEDs. It earned mixed reviews from audiences and critics with an A- rating on CinemaScore and a 31% “rotten” rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

“It is very funny and of course the two stars on it could not be hotter right now,” said Orr. “Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are just as hot as it gets in comedy and entertainment period around the world. So we’re obviously thrilled to be in business with them.”

In second place, Warner Bros.’ computer-animated “Smallfoot” came in a little soft with $23 million, below analysts’ predictions of $25 million to $30 million.

The $80-million film follows a Yeti who forges an unlikely friendship with a human. It earned positive reviews with audiences and critics with an A- rating on CinemaScore and a 69% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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In third place, Universal’s “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” added $12.5 million in its second weekend for a cumulative $44.8 million.

Lionsgate’s “A Simple Favor” came in at No. 4, adding $6.6 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $43 million.

Rounding out the top five, Warner Bros.’ “The Nun” added $5.4 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $109 million.

Also new this week, Lionsgate’s horror thriller “Hell Fest” opened at No. 6 with $5 million.

The low-budget slasher flick, also from CBS Films, is about a masked killer who stalks a traveling horror carnival. “Hell Fest,” which cost $5.5 million to produce, came in within range of analysts predictions of $5 million to $7 million. It was unfavorably reviewed with a C rating on CinemaScore and a 37% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Pinnacle Peak’s drama “Little Women” opened in 643 locations with $747,000 (a per-screen average of $1,162) well below analyst predictions of $4 million. Directed by Clare Niederpruem, the film earned a 35% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In limited release, National Geographic’s “Free Solo” earned $304,804 in four theaters for an impressive per-theater average of $75,201, the highest opening-per-theater average of 2018 and the best-ever opening average for a documentary, besting Sony Pictures Classics’ “Across the Sea of Time” ($71,961 per-theater), the previous record holder for an IMAX title. (Paramount Classics’ “An Inconvenient Truth” was the previous non-IMAX record holder with an opening per-theater average of $70,333.) “Free Solo,” about free soloist climber Alex Honnold, earned a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fox Searchlight’s “The Old Man & the Gun” opened in five theaters with $150,000 for an impressive per-screen average of $30,000. Starring Robert Redford, the film is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker’s escape from San Quentin at the age of 70. It earned an 88% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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This coming week, Warner Bros. premieres “A Star Is Born” and Sony reveals the action-horror film “Venom.” Fox opens the crime drama “The Hate U Give” in limited release.

sonaiya.kelley@latimes.com

follow me on twitter @sonaiyak


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