Weekend Box Office: 'The Upside' Eyes No. 1 With $18M-Plus; 'Aquaman' Crossing $1B

David Lee/The Weinstein Company
'The Upside'

The long-delayed indie pic stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. Meanwhile, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic 'On the Basis of Sex' impresses in its nationwide expansion, and 'Replicas' marks a career low for Keanu Reeves.

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston's The Upside is laughing louder at the box office than anybody expected.

After earning a promising $1.1 million in Thursday-night previews, the dramedy topped Friday's chart with $7 million from 3,080 theaters for a projected domestic debut of $18 million to $20 million. That's enough to unseat Aquaman, now in its fourth outing.

Heading into the weekend, tracking showed The Upside opening to no more than $9 million to $12 million. The film will boast the second-best opening ever for STXfilms in a needed win for the four-year-old indie studio, as well as marking the first time an STX release has debuted at No. 1.

Aquaman is celebrating a major milestone on Saturday as it crosses the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales after finishing Friday with a worldwide haul of $988.6 million. The superhero pic grossed $4.6 million domestically on Friday for a projected $15.5 million weekend.

The Upside hits theaters after a long delay. It also opens following the high-profile drama over whether or not Hart would host the upcoming Oscars ceremony after the actor's past homophobic comments resurfaced.

The dramedy, about a quadriplegic billionaire who hires an ex-con to care for him, staged its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival but was shelved weeks later following the downfall of Harvey Weinstein. It is a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, which was a huge global hit and became a cultural phenomenon in its native country. 

STX picked up distribution rights to The Upside from Lantern, which bought the assets of The Weinstein Co. Nicole Kidman also stars in the Neil Burger-directed film. Insiders say STX worked to recut the film so that it could go out with a PG-13 rating, versus an R. The Upside earned an A CinemaScore and strong exit scores, making up for withering reviews.

The weekend's other new offerings are the family-friendly A Dog's Way Home and the sci-fi thriller Replicas starring Keanu Reeves.

A Dog's Way Home is expected to place No. 3 with $11 million to $12 million, in line with expectations. The Sony film chronicles the adventures of a dog — voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard — who travels 400 miles to find her owner. Ashley Judd and Edward James Olmos co-star. The pic, which received an A- CinemaScore, isn't a sequel to A Dog's Purpose; that honor belongs to A Dog's Journey, which is set for a May 17 release. All three movies are based on books by W. Bruce Cameron.

From Entertainment Studios, Replicas is DOA. The indie title, slapped with a C CinemaScore and coming in at No. 13, grossed less than $1 million from 2,329 theaters on Friday for a projected debut of $2.5 million, the worst start of Reeves' career for a film opening in more than 1,000 locations.

In other action, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as a young Ginsburg, is impressing in its nationwide expansion after launching first in select theaters over Christmas. The Mimi Leder-directed film, which earned an A CinemaScore and is playing in 1,923 theaters, is moving up the chart to No. 6 with a projected $6.5 million weekend. Focus Features is releasing the pic, which co-stars Armie Hammer.

Among the victors at last weekend's Golden Globes ceremony, best drama winner Bohemian Rhapsody is seeing a 25 percent uptick after upping its theater count by about 250 locations. The Queen biopic is projected to place 11th with $3 million as it nears the $200 million mark domestically (globally, it has earned north of $750 million).

Annapurna's If Beale Street Could Talk is expanding nationwide into a total of 1,334 cinemas. The Barry Jenkins drama is looking likely to earn $2.5 million to $2.7 million for an early domestic total north of $7.7 million.

Green Book, which has been dogged by more controversy following its Globes win for best comedy or a musical, is waiting to expand in a major way until after Oscar nominations. The film added 176 runs this weekend for a total theater count of 742. Green Book is on course to earn $2.2 million, pushing its domestic total to $38 million to $39 million.

Jan. 11, 12:20 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Jan. 12, 7:15 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses and revised weekend estimates.