By Maureen Lee Lenker
January 13, 2019 at 01:50 PM EST
2018 STX

There may be an upside to Kevin Hart’s Oscars controversy.

The comedian isn’t slowing down at the box office, scoring an unexpected win with his new release The Upside in 2019’s second weekend at the movies. The dramatic comedy, which costars Bryan Cranston, will claim the No. 1 spot, unseating three-week champ Aquaman with an estimated $19.6 million at 3,080 theaters across the U.S. and Canada from Friday through Sunday.

Sony’s heartwarming A Dog’s Way Home, another new release this weekend, is on pace for third place with $11.3 million from 3,090 theaters, in line with expectations, while the weekend’s other new title, the Keanu Reeves-led Replicas, will fail to even crack the top 10, earning just $2.5 million on 2,392 screens.

Inspired by the 2011 French film Les IntouchablesThe Upside tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Phillip Lacasse (Cranston), a paralyzed Park Avenue billionaire, and ex-con Dell Scott (Hart) who charms his way into the role of Phillip’s home aid after becoming frustrated with the jobs available to the newly paroled. The film is directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless), from a script by Jon Hartmere. Nicole Kidman costars as Lacasse’s chief of staff.

Apparently unscathed by Hart’s Oscar-hosting flap, the film is outpacing initial expectations of a $9-million-to-$12-million opening, and it should earn 4-year-old STX Films its first No. 1 box office title. Hart’s isn’t the only controversy swirling around the film: The dramedy, which was shelved last spring after its premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, was one of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s last films. STX picked up distribution rights from Lantern, which had acquired assets from The Weinstein Co., and The Upside marks STX’s second-biggest debut, behind Bad Moms ($23.8 million). Audiences weren’t perturbed by the film’s more problematic aspects, or its less-than-favorable reviews, giving it an A CinemaScore.

Though Aquaman couldn’t hold off The Upside, the superhero flick will easily swim into second place with an estimated $17.3 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $287 million. It continues to dominate the international box office, earning $732 million overseas to date. And though it didn’t hold on to the top spot domestically, Aquaman crossed a major box office threshold this weekend by passing the $1 billion mark worldwide. This is the first time a DC Comics film has passed that milestone since Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, in 2012.

Directed by James Wan (Furious 7, the Conjuring movies), Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as the eponymous undersea hero, who battles his power-hungry half-brother (Patrick Wilson) and tries to protect both Atlantis and the surface world. The cast also includes Kidman, Amber Heard, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

James Dittiger/Columbia Pictures

In third place, A Dog’s Way Home stays on pace with expectations with its $11.3 million opening. The family film, directed by Charles Martin Smith, follows the adventures of Bella, a dog who makes an epic 400-mile journey home after being separated from her human. Based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron, the film stars Ashley Judd, Edward James Olmos, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Audiences gave it an A-minus CinemaScore, in contrast to middling reviews.

The weekend’s other major release, Replicas, a sci-fi thriller starring Reeves as a scientist obsessed with bringing his family members back from the dead, is bombing with $2.5 million, which marks the worst wide opening of Reeves’ career. Audiences gave the film a poor C CinemaScore.

Rounding out the top five this weekend are Sony’s animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, with an estimated $9 million in its fifth weekend, and the same studio’s horror flick Escape Room, with an estimated $8.9 million.

Overall box office is down 10.4 percent year-to-date, according to Comscore. Check out the Jan. 11-13 numbers below.

  1. The Upside — $19.6 million
  2. Aquaman — $17.3 million
  3. A Dog’s Way Home —$11.3 million
  4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse —$9 million
  5. Escape Room — $8.9 million
  6. Mary Poppins Returns — $7.2 million
  7. Bumblebee — $6.8 million
  8. On the Basis of Sex — $6.2 million
  9. The Mule — $5.5 million
  10. Vice — $3.3 million

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