Update, Friday 10:39PM: “That’s something I thought I would never hear: M. Night Shyamalan is beating Vin Diesel at the box office.”
Those are the words from a rival major studio chief today at Deadline’s Sundance lounge on this weekend’s box office battle, which is seeing Universal/Blumhouse’s low budget horror pic Split ($9M) chopping off the head of Paramount/Revolution’s $85M budgeted xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Split will see a No. 1 debut of $33.8M, making it Shyamalan’s 4th best opening of all-time after Signs ($60M), The Village ($50.7M), and The Last Airbender ($40M). Split is also the fifth Blumhouse title to open north of $30M stateside, and it also demonstrates again following Shyamalan’s The Visit ($5M production cost, $98.5M global B.O.) how the production house’s low-budget filmmaking model complements the director’s sensibilities, providing him with a significant amount of creative control to deliver movies that are just as commercially evocative as his older studio fare.
xXx will slot second with $19.5M, 56% less than the $44.5M opening of its 2002 original which last starred Vin Diesel.
The lessons to be learned here going forward: Shyamalan has a devoted following that you can take to the bank, while social media heavyweight Vin Diesel (132M followers) is lightweight at the domestic B.O. whenever his Fast & Furious back-up crew isn’t standing behind him.
Also, time hasn’t been on the side of the xXx franchise. The forecasted figures speak for themselves: 15 years was definitely too long a wait for Vin Diesel to reprise his role as Xander Cage. Once upon a time, xXx could have been a stellar extreme sports spy franchise.
Given the studio marketing spend on xXx (at least an estimated $40M domestic P&A vs. Split‘s mid $20M marketing spend), its star power (60% did buy tickets for Vin Diesel), arguable legacy brand and the huge social media push behind it (RelishMix reports that the cast alone counts close to a half billion followers), by textbook Hollywood standards Xander Cage should own this weekend. (Granted for several weeks tracking always showed Split ahead of xXx). By comparison, Uni’s efficient marketing push on Split included runs at Fantastic Fest, AFI and a 24-city screening program, one for each of James McAvoy’s personalities in the film. Another factor working in Split‘s favor is that it’s riding the recent groundswell of critical love that film reviewers have been bestowing upon horror fare; its Rotten Tomatoes score of 77% is certified fresh.
For all intents and purposes, Split was counterprogramming for the weekend in its targeting of young women (per CinemaScore it drew 53% women, 55% over 25 with the under 18 bunch giving it an A-). Trackers say that Bye Bye Man‘s estimated 79% drop ($2.8M second weekend, $19.4M total) is indicative of the fact that Split soaked up that pic’s younger female crowd (which was 61% women, 75% under 25).
But the bigger hook for Split which has Shyamalan fans stoked is –spoiler alert– that the movie is connected to another popular one in the filmmaker’s cinematic canon.
The CinemaScores tonight are in indirect proportion to their forecasted openings showing Split with an overall B+ (besting Visit‘s B-) and xXx with the A-. That’s the same grade of the 2002 original, and it’s a big improvement on Vin Diesel’s last solo outing, 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter (B-, $10.8M opening, $27.4M domestic). That movie wasn’t a hit with a $90M estimated production cost, but Last Witch Hunter made 81% of its global $146.9M abroad thanks to the action star’s fandom. The Melrose Lot is also betting that international will cover their hides.
With xXx’s lackluster opening, Monster Trucks‘ crash ($21.5m 10-day cume by Sunday off a $125 production cost before P&A) and Silence‘s failure to resonate on the awards and specialty B.O. circuit (it’s getting whipped this weekend by Ben Affleck’s disaster Live By Night, $1.7M to $831K), Paramount is unfortunately off to a brutal start this year. Summer’s duo of Dwayne Johnson’s Baywatch and Transformers: The Last Knight couldn’t come soon enough. On the slight upside, Paramount only has 50% exposure on xXx with the remainder coming from other entities, including Fortress (former equity owner of Revolution).
Also opening this weekend, is Weinstein Co.’s McDonalds origins story The Founder starring Michael Keaton. Despite a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82% fresh certified, its getting buried in 11th place with an estimated $2.7M at 1,115 locations which isn’t great. Like a number of movies last weekend –i.e. Live By Night, Silence, Patriots Day — the movie is crimped by the fact that it has very little awards mojo and that it’s in the wake of such must-see adult titles like 20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures (reaching $83.5M by Sunday) and Lionsgate’s La La Land which sources tell us has the potential to ultimately see $120M following its awards season run.
Even though TWC’s Lion is ranked lower on the charts, it’s playing in close to half the number of locations that The Founder is and putting up a better screen average, $2,900 to $2,400. Through nine weekends, the Garth Davis-directed movie will count close to $16.2M by Sunday after earning four Golden Globe noms, five BAFTA noms, two SAG noms, six Critics Choice noms, two DGA nods, and a PGA feature nom.
BH Tilt made a play at the faith-based market this weekend with the comedy The Resurrection of Gavin Stone about a washed-up former child star, who is forced to do community service at a local mega-church and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play. He then discovers that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood. The single-digit-million digital marketing spend and church outreach was intended to push this pic to $3M, but it’s at an unholy $1M at 887 locations.
Industry estimates as of Friday evening for the weekend of Jan. 20-22:
1.) Split(UNI/Blumhouse) 3,038 theaters /$13.5M Fri (includes $2M previews) /3-day: $33.8M /Wk 1
2.) xXx: The Return Xander Cage(PAR/REV) 3,561 theaters /$7M Fri (includes $1.2M) /3-day: $19.5M / Wk 1
3.) Hidden Figures (Fox) 3,416 theaters (+130)/$4.6M Fri (-15%) /3-day: $15.5M (-25%)/Total: $83.5M/Wk 5
4.) Sing (ILL/UNI), 3,193 theaters (-500) /$2M Fri.(-33%) /3-day cume: $8.9M (-37%)/Total: $249.2M/Wk 5
5.) La La Land (Lionsgate) 1,865 (+17) /$2.5M Fri (-39%)/3-day:$8.1M (-44%)/Total:$89.4M/ Wk 7
6.) Rogue One (DIS), 2,603 theaters (-559)/$1.9M Fri. (-42%)/ 3-day cume: $7.1M (-47%)/Total: $512.3M/Wk 6
7.) Monster Trucks (PAR) 3,119 theaters (0)/ $1.4M Fri. (-46%)/ 3-day: $5.9M (-46%)/ Total:$21.5M / Wk 2
8.) Patriot’s Day (CBS/LG), 3,120 theaters (0) /$1.6M Fri (-59%) /3-day: $5.6M (-51%)/Total: $23.2M/Wk 5
9.) Sleepless (OR) 1,803 theaters (0)/ $995k Fri. (-67%) /3-day:$3.1M (-62%)/Total:$14.6M/Wk 2
10.) The Bye Bye Man (STX) 2,220 theaters (0) /$977k Fri (-82%)/3-day:$2.8M (-79%)/Total:$19.4M/Wk 2
11.) The Founder (TWC) 1,115 theaters /$975K Fri (includes $105K previews) /3-day: $2.7M /Wk 1
Live by Night (WB), 2,822 theaters (0) /$527K Fri. (-73%) /3-day:$1.7M(-66%)/Total: $9.4M/ Wk 5
Lion (TWC) 575 theaters (0) /$485K Fri (-19%) /3-day: $1.6M (-26%)/Total: $16.2M/Wk 9
20th Century Women (Annapurna/A24) 650 theaters (+621) /$349K Fri (+300%) /3-day: $1.1M (+250%)/Total: $2M/Wk 4
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (BH TILT) 887 theaters /$350K Fri /3-day: $1M/Wk 1
Silence (PAR), 1,580 theaters (+833) /$283K Fri. (-57%) /3-day:$831K (-58%)/Total: $4.8M/ Wk 5
Red Turtle (SPC), 3 theaters /$5K Fri. /PTA: $6,1k/3-day:$19K / Wk 1
Writethru 12:14 PM After Update 11:08 AM Friday: Split is heading high today — very high — in early matinees with industry observers now thinking the psychological thriller from M. Night Shyamalan and Blumhouse/Universal could is looking to push into the mid-$30Ms — as in $37.5M — right now. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is playing a little lighter and so we are re-adusting noon estimates to high teens (as in around $18M) for Paramount/Revolution Studios.
The other major news is that Hidden Figures, the 20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment film is holding phenomenally well. The Ted Melfi-directed film may end up in the $15M to $18M range which means a drop of only about 10% to 13% from weekend to weekend — and most of that will be on Sunday, we’re told. Stay tuned as we head into a how-high-can-it-go weekend for James McAvoy and Split.
PREVIOUSLY 7:05 AM with Writethrus: M. Night Shyamalan’s Split is off to an incredibly strong start, grabbing $2 million in Thursday night previews in 2,295 theaters. Paramount Pictures/Revolution Studios’ xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage just logged in with $1.2M in 2,536 locales. Finally, the Michael Keaton-starring The Founder from The Weinstein Company served up $105,000 on its way to a single-digit opening; it was in 700 theaters at 7 PM. The film about the quick-tempered, morally challenged Ray Kroc (who franchised McDonalds across the nation) enters a market with so many adult-targeted films it makes one wonder why this wasn’t released last year.
Keaton is excellent in the film, and TWC is clearly hoping it will find its audience. It is expected to gross $3M-$4M; its comps are more in the line with Snowden, Miss Sloane and Florence Foster Jenkins — very good films that, unfortunately, generated small grosses. Silence opened to $110K in early shows and had an opening weekend of roughly $2M in 740 locales, while Nocturnal Animals did $115K in early shows and opened to $3.1M. Those films…