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Good Boys ends comedy drought in Hollywood

Studios breathe a sign of relief as moviegoers have been shunning numerous comedies in recent months

From left: Brady Noon, Jacob Tremblay and Keith L Williams at the premiere of Good Boys in California. Its modest US$20m budget and strong scores were commended by both audiences and critics.

Los Angeles

UNIVERSAL Pictures and a gaggle of foul-mouthed 12-year-olds proved over the weekend that, even in the Netflix epoch, comedies can still pack a box-office punch.

Good Boys, about the R-rated misadventures of three preteen buddies, collected an estimated US$21 million at movie theatres in the US and Canada, according to Comscore.

That No 1 total - the largest so far this year for an original comedy - exceeded analysts' pre-release expectations by more than 30 per cent. "This is a franchise-level opening," wrote movie consultant David Gross in an Aug 17 report that noted the movie's modest US$20 million budget and strong scores from audiences and critics.

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Even rival studios breathed a sigh of relief. Moviegoers in North America have given a cold shoulder to one comedy after another in recent months, including the likes of Stuber, Late Night, Long Shot, Booksmart, Poms, The Hustle, and Shaft.

The carnage has prompted speculation that streaming services have made it easy for audiences looking for laughs to skip theatres.

The bar does seem to be higher. Good Boys was more than a well-crafted film backed by a very aggressive marketing campaign; it got noticed because it pushed taste boundaries.

An R-rated movie about sixth-graders? One of the only other original comedies that has found an audience this year, Yesterday, released by Universal in June, used an over-the-top premise and Beatles music to up the ante.

Bruce Springsteen's songbook did not help Blinded by the Light, which went down in flames over the weekend. Despite mostly strong reviews, Blinded by the Light took in about US$4.5 million, for a ninth-place start. It probably struck ticket buyers as too similar to Yesterday, box-office analysts said.

Warner paid about US$15 million to acquire rights to the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Two other new movies also fizzled out. Where'd You Go, Bernadette collected US$3.5 million, while 47 Meters Down: Uncaged took in roughly US$9 million, about 20 per cent less than its series predecessor managed during its first weekend in 2017.

Faring somewhat better was The Angry Birds Movie 2, which sold US$10.5 million in tickets, for a domestic total of US$16.2 million since arriving last Tuesday. The first Angry Birds collected US$45.7 million over its first six days in 2016. Sony noted that the sequel received starkly better reviews than the initial movie and that another major animated film does not arrive until late September.

Sony had another good weekend with Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time . . . In Hollywood, which collected IS$53.7 million in its initial rollout overseas.

Ticket sales were particularly strong in Britain and Australia. Once Upon a Time took in US$7.6 million in North America from last Friday to Sunday, for a four-week domestic total of US$114.3 million. NYTIMES