The Kevin Hart/Brian Cranston-starring dramedy The Upside outpaced expectations, earning $19.6 million and preventing Aquaman from becoming the first DC-based film to top the box office for the first month of its release, though it didn’t prevent James Wan’s over-the-top aquatic extravaganza from becoming the first film from the DC Extended Cinematic Universe to top $1 billion worldwide.

It’s early in the year, but despite the success of Aquaman, it is clear that this year’s holiday movies don’t have the staying power of last year’s seasonal blockbusters as the total box office was off a whopping 27.2% from the same weekend last year when Jumanji (which teamed Kevin Hart with The Rock) remained at #1 with $28.1 million.  Next weekend with the premiere of M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass (the final film in a trilogy that includes Unbreakable from 2000, and Split from 2017), 2019 will have a chance to perhaps pull a bit closer to 2018’s record box office pace.

The Upside, which was directed by Neil Burger, was one of the last films produced by disgraced movie mini-mogul Harvey Weinstein.  Like many of Weinstein’s previous productions, The Upside is a remake of a foreign language film—in this case the 2012 French hit The Intouchables, which Weinstein distributed in the U.S., and which earned some $426 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest non-English hits in modern box office history.   STX acquired the rights, when Weinstein’s company imploded following numerous charges of sexual assault, and then proceeded to recut the film to receive a “PG-13” designation rather than the film’s original “R” rating.

While The Upside’s debut surpassed expectations, it was still smaller than any of Hart’s “pure comedy” releases like last year’s Night School ($27 million) or 2015’s The Wedding Ringer ($22 million).  Still for a film with more drama than comedy, The Upside, which centers on the relationship between a rich white paraplegic and a black ex-con hired to be his companion, did surprisingly well—and demonstrates that Hart’s box office draw has not been noticeably diminished by the controversy over his withdrawal from Oscar-hosting duties.

The critics (the vast majority of whom have seen original French film) didn’t go for The Upside, giving it just a 40% positive rating, but opening weekend audiences, largely unaware of the French antecedent that earned just $10 million in North America, gave the film a solid “A“ CinemaScore, which indicates that The Upside could be in theaters for quite some time.  The Upside attracted a diverse audience that skewed heavily female (59%) and was composed of 48% Caucasians, 23% African-Americans, 19% Hispanics, and 10% Asian/Other.

Aquaman may not have become the first DC Superhero to top the box office in its first four weeks of release, but it did become the first film from the DC Extended Cinematic Universe to earn over $1 billion, and the first DC-based film to do so since The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, and only the fifth Warner Bros. film to surpass that mark (not accounting for inflation).

Aquaman dropped just 44.3% in its fourth weekend, adding $17.3 million and driving its North American total to $287.9 million, finally catching up to what the film has earned in China ($288 million—though Warner Bros.’ only earns 25% of the ticket grosses from the Middle Kingdom versus 50% for North America).

Perhaps it is worth noting that in recent years the “break-out” solo superhero hit films (Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Aquaman) have all been the first solo films for the character.  There are some exceptions to this trend (Spider-Man: Homecoming reversed the downward trend in the cinematic Spider-Verse, though it was not a dominating release like Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and now Aquaman).  Will Marvel Studio’s Captain Marvel continue this trend, and if so will we continue to see studios taking chances on less-than-bestselling comic characters?

Weekend Box Office (Studio Estimates): January 11-13, 2019



Weekend Gross



Total Gross



The Upside














A Dog's Way Home







Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse







Escape Room







Mary Poppins Returns














On the Basis of Sex







The Mule













Third place went to Sony’s A Dog’s Way Home, a family-targeting, heartwarming canine saga that earned $11.3 million, and attracted an audience that was almost evenly split between male and female (52% distaff), and young and old (51% over 25).  Modestly budgeted at $18 million, A Dog’s Way Home will likely be a modest earner for Sony.

One film that definitely benefited from its well-deserved win at the Golden Globes for “Best Animated Feature,” was Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse, which slipped just 31% in its fifth weekend as it earned $9 million to bring its domestic total to $147.8 million.  A win at the Oscars, where it will face off once again against Pixar’s Incredibles 2, could help earn Into the Spider-Verse the vast audience this exceptional film deserves.

Sony also has a hit with its horror film Escape Room, which earned $8.9 million in its sophomore frame, giving it a domestic total of $34.2 million, which means this $9 million production is already in the black.

After a slow start Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns has righted the ship somewhat.  The musical has now earned $150.7 million here in North America, and should end up somewhere north of last year’s The Greatest Showman, which finished its domestic run in the $175 million neighborhood.

If any film has gotten “the shaft” this winter, it’s Paramount’s Transformers stand-alone Bumblebee, which despite raves from both critics and audiences, has earned just $108.5 million here.  Fortunately for Paramount, and the franchise, the North American total represents just 30% of what the film has earned worldwide.

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic, On the Basis of Sex, expanded to nearly 2,000 theaters and earned a solid, but unspectacular $6.2 million, while Clint Eastwood’s successful geezer-targeting thriller The Mule continued to plod on towards a North American finish that will be north of $100 million, and Adam McKay’s political comedy Vice faded a bit as it lost theaters.

Outside the top ten, Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody has now earned $198. 5 million domestically, which puts it within striking distance of Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born ($203.6 million) in the competition for the top box office musical of 2018 here in North America.  Only big wins by the Cooper/Lady Gaga songfest at the Oscars will keep the Queen biopic from overtaking Star here (worldwide it is no contest with $751 million for Bohemian versus $403 million for Star).

This week’s out-and-out bomb was the Keanu Reeves-starring sci-fi thriller Replicas, which earned just $2.5 million from 2,329 locations, Reeves’ worst debut ever, one of the worst ever openings for a film in over 2,000 locations.  With just a 10% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and a lousy “C” CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences, Replicas is surely doomed, and Reeves should be able to get some of his box office mojo back when John Wick 3 opens this spring.

Next week will see the release of the first big “buzzy” release of 2019, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, which will unspool in about 3,500 locations.