Billy Eichner’s Gay Rom-Com ‘Bros’ Takes on Creepy Thriller ‘Smile’ at Box Office

After years of declarations about the death of the romantic comedy, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum’s recent commercial hit “The Lost City” proved there’s still a place on the big screen for meet-cute stories.

Now, comedian and actor Billy Eichner is taking a stab at the feel-good genre with “Bros,” an R-rated romantic comedy that opens in 3,300 North American theaters on Friday. The movie, from Universal Pictures, is aiming to generate $8 million to $10 million in its opening weekend. It’s not a huge number, but the film carries a modest $22 million production budget.

“Bros” is debuting in theaters alongside Paramount’s R-rated chiller “Smile,” which is projected to cast a toothy glow over the domestic box office charts with $16 million to $20 million. That’s a stellar result given that it only cost the studio $17 million to make.

Though “Bros” is backed by superb reviews (it has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was made by such stalwarts of the genre as producer Judd Apatow (“The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) and director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), the movie has been forced to withstand obstacles beyond Netflix’s near dominance over the rom-com market. Namely, “Bros” has been subjected to homophobic review bombing (from people who likely haven’t even seen the film yet) prior to its release.

Yet plenty of others have been vocal in celebrating the historic nature of “Bros,” the rare movie from a major studio to center on a same-sex couple, as well as the first studio movie starring and co-written by an openly gay man, with some hilarious urging of straight audiences to support the movie as well.

And Eichner, for his part, has been working in overdrive to promote the movie on social media and at film festivals across the country. The “Billy on the Street” comedian-turned-actor stars in “Bros” as a podcast host and museum curator named Bobby, who reluctantly falls for Aaron, a hunk with equally acute commitment issues. The all-LGBTQ+ cast also includes Guy Branum, Ts Madison, Dot-Marie Jones and Jim Rash.

For movie fans who prefer bloodletting to falling in love, the also well-reviewed “Smile” is playing in 3,600 theaters. Directed by Parker Finn in his feature film debut, the disturbing thriller follows a therapist who appears to be losing her mind after witnessing a bizarre traumatic event involving a patient.

Variety‘s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised “Smile” for its “shivery quality,” as well as its “highly effective creep factor, its well-executed if familiar shock tactics, its interlaced theme of trauma and suicide.”

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