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Kevin Hart’s Latest Box Office Success Certifies Star Power

Comedian builds on 'Ride Along' smash with Valentine's Day treat 'About Last Night'

Kevin Hart more than lived up to his name on Valentine’s day as Sony-Screen Gems’ “About Last Night” led the charge among couples.

And yet, the comedian-turned-leading man, who stands at just 5’2″ tall, has been quietly building his brand, which has only just blown up at the box office, in order to become one of the most biggest African American stars since Will Smith and Denzel Washington.

Prior to this year, Hart was known more in the stand-up world, with Codeblack-produced and distributed (along with Summit) hits like “Laugh at My Pain” and “Let Me Explain,” both of which were preceded by the eponymous “Kevin Hart.”

In less than two months, however, Hart has become one of the industry’s sturdiest B.O. players with two major narrative feature hits: Universal’s “Ride Along,” which became the first 2014 release to cross $100 million, and now “About Last Night,” which topped Friday’s box office with $12.9 million, kick-starting a solid $28.5 million four-day run.

Earlier in his career, Hart had memorable supporting roles in such films as “The Five-Year Engagement” and “Think Like a Man.”

Hart’s seemingly overnight hit status also is due, in part, to the recent success of urban-targeted films in general, including “The Best Man Holiday” and “12 Years a Slave,” both of which were released late last year.

Still, neither of those films broke out the way “Ride Along” has when it scored a rare three straight wins atop the domestic box office.

And while African American-themed films typically do not travel well outside the U.S. (aside from Will Smith — formerly, at least), they are made for a price. “About Last Night,” for instance, cost only $12.5 million to produce, while “Ride Along” was budgeted at $25 million.

“Ride Along” managed to cross over ethnic lines, however.

During opening weekend, the Universal film surprisingly scored 30% of its gross from Hispanics, with Caucasians contributing 12% of the opening. African Americans still delivered half of the box office, though since then the film’s staying power is attributed to a broadened demo base.

“About Last Night,” on the other hand, earned an overwhelming 72% of its opening from African Americans.

Regardless, it’s a steady beat for Hart.

Sony is further investing in multi-hyphenate by his upcoming comedy “The Wedding Ringer” to Martin Luther King weekend next year.

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