- Kevin Hart’s 10-year-old HartBeat Productions is growing at a rapid pace with its digital platform Laugh Out Loud Network and multiple film projects in development around Hollywood, including a first-look deal at Universal.
- “You just don’t want to be the guy who shows up and says the speech before a film gets screened,” Hart told Business Insider of his philosophy on the growth of HartBeat. “I don’t do things to just throw my name on it, I don’t believe in that. If I’m involved, I’m present.”
- HartBeat projects currently range from an upcoming Hart stand-up special on Netflix, to him producing the US remake of the record-breaking Korean movie, “Extreme Job.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For the last 10 years, Kevin Hart has been doing more than starring in blockbuster movies and theatrically released stand-up specials. He’s been strategically building a production company that is shifting him from movie star to major Hollywood player.
HartBeat Productions launched with Hart and a team of two in 2009, at a modest corner office space in a nondescript building in downtown Encino, California. But since then, it has grown to a staff of almost 40 and now takes up the entire floor of its original office building. The company also has three soundstages in the San Fernando Valley used for its digital arm, Laugh Out Loud Network. And HartBeat is currently developing various film projects at numerous studios, including a first-look deal at Universal.
“You just don’t want to be the guy who shows up and says the speech before a film gets screened,” Hart told Business Insider of his philosophy on the growth of HartBeat. “I don’t do things to just throw my name on it, I don’t believe in that. If I’m involved, I’m present. My impact is felt and I think that goes a long way because when people that do the work for you see that you put in the work too, it makes it feel like they are part of something special.”
Hard work has never been something Hart has shied away from.
Hart emerged out of the stand-up scene in the late 1990s to become one of the biggest draws ever. The theatrical releases of his specials “Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain” (2011), “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” (2013), and “Kevin Hart: What Now?” (2016) combined to make over $US63.5 million, with “Let Me Explain” having a $US10 million opening on just 876 screens.
And Hart’s box-office draw as an actor is even more astonishing.
Hart starred alongside Ice Cube in the “Ride Along” franchise, generating box-office receipts in the hundreds of millions. And Hart’s draw was even bigger when he was recently paired with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which earned close to $US1 billion worldwide.
But you can really tell how strong Hart’s draw is when you look at this year’s movie, “The Upside.” The movie was a casualty of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations that crippled Weinstein’s company (the movie was eventually released by STXfilms), and at the time of the movie’s release, Hart was dealing with the blowback of homophobic tweets and jokes of his that had resurfaced when he was chosen to host the Oscars (he eventually stepped down). But despite that, the movie opened No. 1 at the domestic box office with over $US20 million. It would go on to make over $US100 million worldwide on a $US37.5 million budget.
“The audience knows that with Kevin, he’s somebody they can get behind,” Peter Cramer, president of Universal, told Business Insider. “His characters are human and are always going to look out for you, and because of that audiences will follow him anywhere.”
Hart is hoping audiences will have that same kind of trust with HartBeat as its portfolio grows.
On the digital side, with Laugh Out Loud Network, the projects all have a multicultural feel, which Hart says is helping expand diverse representation in the space. Its YouTube channel has 3.7 million subscribers, and one of its shows “Kevin Hart: What The Fit,” in which Hart and a celebrity guest conduct an interview while doing insane exercises, has over 275 million views across all the episodes. YouTube funds “What The Fit” as part of its premium video initiative and has renewed it for a season 3.
HartBeat has also teamed with Netflix to develop TV shows and Hart’s next stand-up special. Hart said the latter came when he decided that he wouldn’t do theatrical releases of his comedy specials anymore. Though they have been moneymakers, Hart is thinking bigger.
“It’s a better deal because it’s more global,” Hart said of doing his stand-up on Netflix. “With me trying to get to a space where my movies are having more and more box-office success all over the globe, something that can be in Germany, Spain, and Australia all at the same time, these are all markets that I’m currently frequenting so that was just a smart move.”
That brings us to the major cog for HartBeat: the movie side.
HartBeat came out of the gate with the 2018 Universal Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy, “Night School,” which opened No. 1 at the domestic box office and made over $US100 million worldwide (despite a 27% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes).
Now, HartBeat projects are in the works all over town.
At Warner Bros., there’s the remake of the 1974 Bill Cosby-Sidney Poitier movie, “Uptown Saturday Night;” at Sony, there’s the drama “Fatherhood;” and then there’s a body-switching comedy called “Black Friday” at STXfilms. And those are just the ones Hart will talk publicly about.
With its first-look deal at Universal, HartBeat has projects that range from a comedy Hart and Chris Rock came in and pitched titled “Co-Parenting,” to the US remake of the record-breaking Korean movie, “Extreme Job,” that Hart would be a producer on but not star in.
“He really is one of the hardest working guys in the industry, which is meaningful,” Carmer said (Hart will star next in Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” opening in theatres on Friday). “He wants to win, always. He’s willing to get on the phone with anybody and do whatever it takes to make HartBeat a true production company.”
Hart’s passion for HartBeat is evident when talking to him. Gone is the guy with jokes and a colourful personality and in his place is someone who is focused and strategic in where he wants to take his brand. It’s clear the biggest thing Hart wants going forward is for HartBeat to be a value beyond just his name. “I think the biggest goal is to have a ridiculous resume,” Hart said. “Five years from now, if I can have anywhere from 12-14 movies that were done from HartBeat Productions, I think that’s an amazing thing. But being a true partner to these monster studios so when these deals come in you know why. It’s justified. It’s not because I’m just Kevin Hart. We are doing the work.”
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