Weekend Box Office: 'Night School' Heads to Top of Class With $26M Debut

Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart arrive at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Night School' at the Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 on Sept. 24, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish's raucous comedy Night School laughed its way to the top of the Friday (Sept. 28) box-office chart, earning $9.5 million from 3,010 theaters for a projected weekend debut of $26 million.   

The film reunites director Malcolm D. Lee, producer Will Packer and Universal, the winning trio behind the 2017 box-office hit Girls Trip, which debuted to $31 million in summer 2017. Night School  is opening on par with recent hit Crazy Rich Asians, Jon M. Chu's groundbreaking romantic comedy. (Heading into the weekend, some tracking services had suggested Night School could clear $31 million in its domestic launch.)   

Lee's latest comedy, earning an A- CinemaScore, follows a group of misfits who are forced to attend night school in order to pass their GED exams (Haddish plays their teacher). Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco and Keith David round out the cast. In addition to starring, Hart is among the producers.

Warner Bros.' new animated offering Smallfoot opened to No. 2 on Friday with $6.5 million for a weekend debut in the $23 million-$24 million range from 4,131 theaters. The movie, whose voice cast includes Channing Tatum and LeBron James, likewise earned an A- CinemaScore.

Co-written and directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, Smallfoot follows a group of Yeti who encounter a human (neither can believe the other is real). James Corden, Zendaya, Common, Gina Rodriguez, Danny DeVito and Yara Shahidi also lend their voices.    

Holdovers The House With a Clock In its Walls, A Simple Favor and The Nun look to take the next three posts on the chart, followed by CBS Films' new pic Hell Fest.

Gregory Plotkin's modestly budgeted slasher film, distributed by Lionsgate, grossed roughly $2 million on Friday from 2,297 theaters for a $5 million weekend. The film stars Amy Forsyth, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards and Tony Todd and centers on a group of teens who are pursued by a killer at a horror-themed amusement park on Halloween. Audiences gave the film a C CinemaScore, not unusual for the genre.   

The fourth new film opening nationwide this weekend, albeit in far fewer locations, is Little Women, the seventh big-screen adaptation of the iconic novel about the March sisters. The indie pic, from distributor Pinnacle Peak and playing in 643 cinemas, may not crack $1 million. Sarah Davenport, Allie Jennings, Lucas Grabeel, Ian Bohen and Lea Thompson star.

With awards season getting underway, a flurry of movies are set to open at the specialty box office. One of those is National Geographic's documentary Free Solo, which is on course to score the best theater location average of the year -- or roughly $77,000 -- not to mention a likely record for a doc.

Free Solo, launching in four theaters, follows professional Alex Honnold as he free climbs Yosemite's El Capitan.

Fox Searchlight's The Old Man & the Gun, the last film Robert Redford says he will star in, is opening in five locations for a projected average of $28,000. The critically acclaimed movie, directed by David Lowery and co-starring Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck, tells the gritty tale of compulsive real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker, who escaped from prison 16 times over the course of a long career that ended when he was in his late 70s. Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Isiah Whitlock Jr., John David Washington, Tom Waits and Elisabeth Moss co-star.

Washington is pulling double duty this weekend, between Old Man & the Gun and Monsters and Men, a new specialty offering from Neon helmed by first-time feature director Reinaldo Marcus Green. The police shooting drama, launching in 18 locations, is looking at a weekend screen average of roughly $5,500.