Kevin Hart’s “The Upside” Takes No. 1 Spot at the Box Office

Bryan Cranston, left, and Kevin Hart in “The Upside,” which sold $19.6 million in tickets its first weekend.
David Lee/STXfilms, via Associated Press

He’s still not hosting the Academy Awards, but Kevin Hart has a No. 1 movie to celebrate.

Only days after quashing the idea that he would return as host of the Oscars, the actor and comedian is back at the top of the box office in STX’s “The Upside,” a dramedy starring Hart as a black parolee who becomes the caregiver and pal of a wealthy, white quadriplegic man played by Bryan Cranston. Despite an unenthusiastic reception from critics (the film has a 40 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the film exceeded most analysts’ expectations, selling $19.6 million in tickets during its first weekend in theaters.

The movie’s performance is especially notable given the controversy that has embroiled Hart while he’s been trying to promote it. In December, shortly after Hart was announced as the Oscar host, he dropped out when several tweets and comments that were deemed homophobic resurfaced from his past. Since then, his appearances to talk about “The Upside” have also involved discussions about the controversy, as was the case with a spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at the beginning of the month that briefly stoked rumors that Hart could be reinstated as host (he has since definitively ruled it out).

But audiences didn’t seem to want to punish Hart: They bought enough tickets to allow “The Upside” to beat out the titanic “Aquaman” and claim the top spot at the box office.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Gabe Cohn