Look who’s laughing now.
Comedian Kevin Hart’s standup concert docu “Laugh at My Pain,” from Codeblack Entertainment, became the weekend B.O.’s standout, with a revised $1.9 million from just 97 locations. It was the largest debut for such a concert pic since “Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat” in 2002.
The African-American comic, who has had several Comedy Central specials, also has roles in Tim Story’s upcoming comedy “Think Like a Man” and Nick Stoller’s “Five Year Engagement.”
What’s more, “Pain” had a rare day-and-date bow in West Africa (where Hart has a significant fanbase), which yielded $6,000 as the market’s overall No. 3 pic.
The film earned top grosses in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York, though according to Codeblack CEO Jeff Clanagan, “Pain” ranked first or second place in 80% of all the film’s Stateside debut theaters through Sunday.
“Pain” — which recouped its entire P&A cost this weekend, Clanagan said — earned the most of any film opening at fewer than 100 locations since “Chicago” in 2002. (Lionsgate’s “Precious” came close in 2009, bowing to $1.87 million from 18 engagements.)
“We have a very keen knowledge of how to reach the urban market,” Clanagan told Variety. “But the key is Kevin.”
Clanagan said his team at Codeblack, which released on DVD Hart’s 2010 TV broadcast “Seriously Funny,” capitalized on the comedian’s social-networking fanbase, targeting fans who had watched his YouTube videos. Outside the U.S., Hart’s online videos have generated the most hits from fans in the U.K.
Hart has more than 2 million Twitter followers, as well as some 4 million fans on Facebook, of which 250,000 come from West Africa. That’s what led to the pic’s launch there, Clanagan said. Codeblack also plans to roll out the pic in Blighty and South Africa.
“Studios keep telling us that our films don’t travel overseas,” Clanagan said. “We beg to differ.”
Six year-old Codeblack has distributed more than 100 urban-themed DVD titles and several theatrical releases.Domestically, Codeblack partnered with AMC Theaters’ independent division, which guaranteed trailer placement and in-theater advertising. “They came to the table with a lot of extras that you normally wouldn’t get from an exhibitor,” Clanagan said.
Codeblack will broaden “Pain” to 10 additional markets on Friday, with plans eventually to release the pic at most in 400 locations.