NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time in more than two years, a straight-up comedy is No. 1 at the box office. Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish’s “Night School” debuted with $28 million in ticket sales, according to estimates Sunday.
The race for the weekend top spot was, in the end, a laugher. Warner Bros.’ animated release “Smallfoot,” which cost about $80 million to make, trailed in second with $23 million.
Not since Melissa McCarthy’s “The Boss” topped the box office in April 2016 has a comedy that didn’t mix other genre elements been No. 1. The romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” was a huge success, leading the box office for four straight weeks, and Tyler Perry’s two horror-comedies — “Boo! A Madea Halloween” and its sequel — both opened at the top.
But big-screen comedy has been in a tailspin for years. It took two of comedy’s biggest names teaming up to push Universal’s “Night School” to the year’s best comedy opening.
“We’ve been very consistent in this genre,” said Jim Orr, distribution chief for Universal. “When you get in business with people like Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish who are just on fire, and then really extraordinary filmmakers like (producer) Will Packer, that’s how you get good results.”
More than most studios, Universal has stuck by comedy. This year, it also released the prom-night farce “Blockers” ($60.1 million worldwide on a $21 million budget) and the comic musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” ($390.1 million worldwide on a $75 million budget).