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 $21 million at theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Comscore. That No. 1 total — the largest so far this year for an original comedy — exceeded analysts’ prerelease expectations by more than 30 percent.
“This is a franchise-level opening,” David A. Gross, a movie consultant, wrote in a Saturday report that noted the movie’s modest budget and strong scores from audiences and critics. “Good Boys” cost about $20 million to make.
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: “Stuber,” “Late Night,” “Long Shot,” “Booksmart,” “Poms,” “The Hustle,” “Shaft.” The carnage has prompted speculation that streaming services have made it easy for audiences looking for laughs to skip theaters.
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” (Warner Bros.), which went down in flames over the weekend. Despite mostly strong reviews, “Blinded by the Light” took in about $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 $15 million to acquire rights to the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Two other new movies also fizzled. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (United Artists) collected $3.5 million, while “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” (Entertainment Studios) took in roughly $9 million, about 20 percent less than its series predecessor managed during its first weekend in 2017.
Faring somewhat better was “The Angry Birds Movie 2” (Sony), which sold $10.5 million in tickets, for a domestic total of $16.2 million since arriving on Tuesday. The first “Angry Birds” collected $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 $53.7 million in its initial rollout overseas. Ticket sales were particularly strong in Britain and Australia. “Once Upon a Time” took in $7.6 million in North America from Friday to Sunday, for a four-week domestic total of $114.3 million.