To no one’s great surprise, the comedy starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish topped box offices this weekend. Night School was directed by Malcolm D. Lee and produced by Will Packer, and Forbes reports that the film earned $28 million over the weekend. The Universal/Comcast picture had a budget of just $29 million, so the movie is already nearly profitable on week 1, and is very likely to continue to gain momentum. It features the hugely popular Hart as a man trying to earn his G.E.D., and the equally beloved Haddish as the teacher who won’t put up with his antics in her classroom.
The first weekend was very promising for Night School, which didn’t receive a lot of positive critical praise. However, it did receive an A- from Cinemascore. The film’s performance is a good sign for mid to low-budget comedies, showing that if you can get a star or two to sign on then the films can be incredibly profitable when released. No matter what critics say, fans of Hart’s or Haddish’s comedy will line up to see them and laugh, because they think the stars are hilarious. It doesn’t matter what the newspaper says, when they know their favorites are reliably funny. Haddish is really having a breakout year after her role in Girls Trip. She’s landed endorsement deals, more starring roles, and has become known for her hilarious story-telling abilities. A clip of Haddish discussing how she invited Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith on a swamp tour went viral.
Night School pulled off the second-biggest September comedy debut ever, behind Sweet Home Alabama, which starred Reese Witherspoon. It’s the year’s biggest debut for a film with no heists or superheroes, and also did well across demographics. Comedies are cheaper to produce because they don’t need a huge special-effects budget, or the ability to sustain a franchise. Most comedies are just telling an original story and ending things there.
This movie also differed from some of the year’s top comedies like Blockers or Crazy Rich Asians. It didn’t have a big ensemble cast and it wasn’t a “party” movie like those films or other top contenders like Girls Trip, where Haddish also appears. Of course, other more conventional ensemble comedies did well this year too, like Game Night. If Night School continues to gain momentum and earn at the box office, it will prove that Hart and Haddish are very bankable stars indeed, and may lead to roles for them in more comedies like this one.