Box Office: 'The Upside' Crosses $100M in Surprise Windfall for Lantern, STX

David Lee/STXfilms
'The Upside'

The Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston dramedy is the first movie from Lantern Entertainment, which bought the assets of Harvey Weinstein's embattled company for $287 million.

The Upside crossed $100 million Tuesday in North America, a major milestone for the indie dramedy, which had to navigate its way around controversy before becoming the biggest early success story of the 2019 box office.

The Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston movie is a key win for both Lantern Entertainment — which inherited the film when it bought the assets of Harvey Weinstein's former company, The Weinstein Co., for $287 million last year — and STXfilms, which distributed and co-marketed The Upside in concert with Lantern. It's only the second STX release to cross $100 million domestically after Bad Moms (2016).

Lantern could ultimately see a return of $40 million or more from box office receipts, home entertainment and other ancillary revenues, according to several sources. Another analyst suggests Lantern could even get back north of $50 million before talent participation. The film's budget was a reported $35 million to $37 million. Lantern absorbed that cost when purchasing TWC.

STXfilms doesn't have any equity in The Upside, opting for a lucrative 10 percent distribution fee that could equal $12 million to $14 million, thanks to additional percentage points tied to certain box office thresholds, according to sources. Lantern and STX declined to comment on the specifics of their deal.

And STX, which is given high marks for its work on the movie, will immediately recoup the $25 million to $35 million spent on promotion.

"We are extremely motivated by the film’s performance, and it is a tremendous start for Lantern Entertainment," Lantern co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "When acquiring the assets of The Weinstein Company, we made a commitment to support the film with our team and partners who thoughtfully brought it to market."

Mitchell and Brajovic added, "Our team worked beside [production company] Escape Artists and STX Films to deploy a very strategic campaign, and when our test screenings affirmed that this very human comedy would resonate with audiences, we knew we had the responsibility to do everything possible to make the movie a success."

The Upside, which was shot in 2017, was one of the final movies made by Weinstein before his career imploded amid allegations of sexual assault in the fall of 2017. It finally opened in theaters over the Jan. 11-13 weekend, just as Hart's bid to host the Oscar was derailed because of the actor's past homophobic tweets.

Media appearances that had been booked for Hart to promote the movie — like a visit to Ellen DeGeneres' daytime talk show and another on ABC's Good Morning America — instead turned into discussions of his past tweets, the aborted Academy hosting gig and what some viewed as begrudging apologies before he could get to the business of talking up the movie. Although Cranston also made some appearances on behalf of the film, his availability was limited because he's currently starring in Network on Broadway.

No one expected the movie to open to much more than $10 million, despite Hart's billing on the marquee. But it took in $20.4 million on its opening weekend and hasn't slowed down since.

The Upside is only the second title of 2019 to cross $100 million, and isn't far behind the top-grossing release of the year to date, M. Night Shyamalan's Glass ($108 million). Often, a film is lucky to earn three times its opening-weekend gross. The Upside's multiple is now five. Last weekend, for example, it came in No. 9 in its seventh outing with $3.2 million; Glass fell to No. 12 in its sixth weekend with $1.8 million.

The movie has benefited from Hart's continued box office appeal, as well as Cranston's star status. It has drawn an ethnically diverse audience and has also appealed to older audiences. On opening weekend, more than 10 percent of ticket buyers were 55 and older (Cranston is 62).

Rivals commend the decision by STX and the producers for their decision to edit a few seconds of the film in order to lower its rating from an R to a PG-13. Hart expressed his appreciation for the overall marketing and release strategy by signing a two-picture development deal with STX, whose film division is run by Adam Fogelson.

Overseas, The Upside has grossed nearly $11 million from a dozen or so markets. In North America, analysts predict the film will top out at $110 million to $115 million.