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Thursday, December 8, 2016

By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — So far this year, there have been two proven bets at the box office: Legos and Kevin Hart.

That hot streak continued through the Presidents Day weekend, with The Lego Movie building on its blockbuster opening to finish No. 1 for a second time, while Hart’s romantic comedy About Last Night was a surprising runner-up. The 3-D animated Lego Movie collected an additional $63.5 million over the four-day holiday, according to studio estimates, and the inexpensive remake of the 1986 Rob Lowe-Demi Moore film brought in a robust $28.5 million.

About Last Night is yet another win for Hart, 34, who is parlaying his success as a stand-up comedian into a serious film career. In January, his buddy-cop comedy Ride Along had the biggest opening of the month, and the film has since gone on to collect $117.4 million. A sequel to Ride Along is already in the works, and Hart has two other comedies set to roll out within the next year.

“You can’t find an actor in Hollywood who works harder than Kevin,” said Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony Pictures, whose Screen Gems label produced Hart’s new movie for $13 million. “He’s a nice guy — the kind you want to hang and have a beer with — and I think people get that. There’s a lot of love out there for him right now.”

Love — and a lot of money — was sent Lego Movie’s way as well. After 11 days in release, the movie featuring characters from the famed toy brand has already grossed $143.8 million domestically, indicating that it will likely have enough stamina to rake in at least an additional $100 million before exiting theaters.

Among this past weekend’s four newcomers — a batch that included two other ’80s reboots, RoboCop and Endless Love, along with the Colin Farrell romance Winter’s Tale — About Last Night was the clear winner. Hart plays an eccentric bachelor who isn’t ready to settle down, unlike his best friend (Michael Ealy), who quickly moves in with a new girlfriend (Joy Bryant). Of the weekend’s debuts, the film earned the best critical reviews by far, notching a 77 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Those who saw the film over the weekend liked it, assigning it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Meanwhile, RoboCop, a new spin on the popular 1987 flick, came in third with $25.6 million — a somewhat disappointing start, given that it cost so much more to produce than its rivals. After pumping $120 million into it, Sony’s Columbia Pictures and MGM had high hopes for the Jose Padilha-directed remake. Nearly three decades ago, the original version grossed $53 million — a massive sum for the time — instantly becoming a sci-fi classic.

But the remake, which does not boast a widely recognizable face in leading man Joel Kinnaman, may end up grossing little more than the original. In an effort to spread positive buzz about the new RoboCop before a crowded box-office weekend, Sony decided to open the film Wednesday. But during its first six days in theaters, the movie sold $30.5 million worth of tickets — meaning word of mouth will need to be exceptionally strong if the pricey film is to become a hit in the U.S. and Canada.