Box Office: ‘Kevin Hart: What Now?’ No Match for Ben Affleck’s ‘The Accountant’

Brent Lang
Variety

Ben Affleck has enjoyed quite the career comeback since the dark days of “Gigli,” the notorious film flop that made him anathema to casting agents. There’s been an Oscar for “Argo.” A superhero franchise in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”A buzzy bestseller-turned-hit-film with “Gone Girl.” Even a failed romance has raised his profile — his breakup from Jennifer Garner kept the tabloids well-sated in the way that his relationship with JLo chummed the paparazzi waters over a decade ago.

This weekend, Affleck will try to prove his star power once more, headlining “The Accountant,” an action-thriller in which his name above the title is the film’s main selling point. He’ll likely justify his hefty asking price. “The Accountant,” features Affleck as kind of a Will Hunting with mob ties, a man whose genius for numbers has him cooking the books for the cement shoe crew. The film should easily top the box office with roughly $18 million to $20 million when it debuts in 3,332 locations. That’s a solid result considering the Warner Bros. release cost just north of $40 million to produce. It stands a decent chance of turning a profit when foreign grosses are taken into account. Nor is it audiences’ last chance to get their Affleck fix. The actor will be back in theaters at the end of the year in “Live by Night,” a Prohibition era gangster tale that he also directs.

Like Affleck, Kevin Hart has secured a place on the upper rungs of the Hollywood star system. He’s successfully opened a number of hit comedies, drawing crowds to the likes of “Ride Along,” “The Wedding Ringer,” and last summer’s “Central Intelligence.” Hart returns this weekend with “Kevin Hart: What Now?,” a look at the sold-out final performance of his most recent comedy tour. Hart’s done the concert film thing before, scoring with 2013’s “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” which became the third highest-grossing live stand-up comedy film in history, netting $32 million domestically. “What Now?” will bow in 2,550 theaters in North America to roughly $13 million. That’s a respectable number given that it cost less than $10 million to make. Universal is distributing “What Now?”

That leaves “Max Steel” as the weekend’s only other major new release. The science-fiction adventure is based on a line of action figures. It has been in the works for a number of years and, at one point, had been intended as a vehicle for  Taylor Lautner. That iteration never made it to multiplexes and in this edition, the “Twilight” hunk has been replaced by Ben Winchell, star of MTV’s “Finding Carter.” The wait may not have been worth it. “Max Steel” is looking at a muted $5 million opening. Open Road is handling the distribution as part of a service deal with Dolphin Films, and will roll the movie out across 2,034 screens.

In limited release, STX Entertainment will debut “Desierto,” a thriller about Mexican migrants trying to evade a homicidal vigilante, in roughly 70 theaters. Jonas Cuaron, the son of “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron, made the film with Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan starring.

It’s been a rough few weeks at the multiplexes, as films such as “Deepwater Horizon,” “Storks,” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” have flopped or fallen short of expectations. There won’t be much relief this weekend. The crop of new releases will have trouble matching the grosses of “Goosebumps” and “Bridge of Spies,” both of which debuted over the year-ago period, to say nothing of “The Martian,” the space adventure that was still going strong in its third weekend of release.

“We’re still in the mode where it’s a post-summer, pre-holiday lull,” said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst with BoxOffice.com.

Salvation is a few weeks off, Robbins predicted, noting that November brings “Doctor Strange,” the Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and Disney’s “Moana.”

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