nullUsing box office sites like Box Office Mojo and The Numbers as my primary research sources, I can say that Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, after its opening 5-day weekend box office gross of roughly $17.5 million, has become the 5th highest grossing stand-up concert movie released theatrically, since 1982 (I couldn’t locate any box office information for concert movies released before that year – again, emphasis on those that were released theatrically).

Although there are popular concert films like Bill Cosby: Himself, which was released in 1982, but I couldn’t find any box office information on it online, which I think is odd, considering that it’s considered one of the best stand-up comedy concert movies of all time by many.

But back to Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Keep in mind that its $17.5 million opening figure is just that – the amount it’s made thus far, after 5 days in release. Distributed by Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, that’s roughly $10 million more than his last concert film – Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain, also released by Codeblack Films – made throughout its entire 14-week theatrical run, which makes Let Me Explain’s 5-day return look all-that-more impressive!

It should blow way past that $17.5 million figure by the time it ends its theatrical run, weeks from now, assuming word of mouth is strong; and by all accounts, it is. It also has a 72% positively Fresh rating on movie review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Therefore, when it exits theaters for home video, expect the film’s cume box office to help move it up a slot or two, from its current #5 position on the list of top-grossing stand-up comedy concert movies released theatrically. It’ll definitely knock Martin Lawrence’s Runteldat out of its current 4th position.

So all signs point to what should be a massive hit for Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, relative to cost, as well as a bolstering of Kevin Hart’s box office strength. His upcoming slate of feature films, which is already a mile high, should see a boost – especially those that feature him in a leading capacity.

The 4 stand-up comedy concert films released in theaters that are currently ahead of Let Me Explain are (Columns include: title, total box office, widest theatrical count, and release date):

1   Eddie Murphy Raw     $50,504,655     1,494      12/18/87
2   The Original Kings of Comedy $38,182,790     1,082 8/18/00
3   Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip $36,299,720     1,277 3/12/82
4   Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat $19,184,820     774 8/2/02

Adjusted for inflation, those figures are: $100.4 million, $50.2 million, $85 million, and $24.3 million, respectively. So Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip, would actually take over the #2 slot, while Original Kings Of Comedy would slide down a notch to #3.

Let Me Explain opened on 876 screens, and will likely expand next weekend.

One very interesting statistic that I discovered while researching for this piece is that, of the top 10 highest grossing stand-up comedy films released in theaters (again, since 1982), 8 of them feature black comics, with films starring Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence and Kevin Hart dominating the list of 8. The Original Kings Of Comedy was a 4-man ticket, including Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac.

The two non-black comedians whose concert films round out the top 10 in the #9 and #10 slots are: Bette Midler’s Divine Madness and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian.

So what does all that mean? Specifically, why do comedy concert movies with black comics, released in theaters, tend to fare a lot better than those with non-black comedians? I’ve been mulling over that question since I started typing up this piece, but I can’t come up with what I feel is an assured answer – other than that some of these names, like Pryor and Murphy, are unquestionably, the most popular, most influential, and most wide-reaching of our time, with broad, crossover audience appeal. And, oh yeah, they were/are pretty damn funny too, with, Pryor especially, working trenchant social criticism into his comedy routines. 

And for that reason, in part, it could also be that, for black audiences, as former Congressman Walter Fauntroy put it in the 2009 documentary, Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy, humor is relied upon as a “tool of the spirit through which we cut a path through the wilderness of our despair.” In essence, we laugh to keep from crying, and so we flood movie theaters to see these social critics/humorists/comedians tell our truths (no matter how controversial) in a format that’s easier to swallow.

Or as Bill Cosby said, “you can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” 

But I’d love to read what your thoughts are on this, so feel free to share in the comments section below, and enlighten me.

Coming up for Kevin Hart, look for him in the dramedy, Ride Along early next year, which is just one of maybe half-a-dozen projects on his 2013/2014 slate. Others include the remake of About Last Night; the sequel to Think Like A ManGrudge Match (with Sylvester Stallone & Robert De Niro); Valet Guys (with Kevin James); the return of his Real Husbands of Hollywood (which is a hit for BET); Chris Rock’s upcoming dramedy, Finally Famous; a currently-untitled Screen Gems/Miramax collaboration from first-timer Jeremy Garelickthat will see The Book Of Mormon‘s Josh Gad, co-star with Hart; a Lionsgate/Codeblack project titled Quick & Easy (no plot details yet), and more…

It is indeed a great time to be Kevin Hart, and, as I’m sure Lionsgate and Codeblack Films would agree, it’s also a great time to be in the Kevin Hart business.