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‘Split’ Stays At No. 1, But Oscar Movies Are The Real Box-Office Story

"A Dog's Purpose" held up well under all that bad PR, but this is the best year in memory for Oscar movie performance.


Split” Defies Gravity. In its second weekend, M. Night Shyamalan’s second collaboration with producer Jason Blum showed that both their partnership and this film are the real deal. After the surprise success of their initial effort “The Visit” scored $65 million domestic on a $5 million production cost (just under $100 million worldwide), their second not only opened much better ($40 million), but also has held on in its second week vastly better than near all horror and/or thriller genre entries.

Optimistic projections suggested it might fall by about 50 percent and compete with “A Dog’s Purpose” for top spot this weekend. Instead, its drop was only 34 percent, making $8 million more than the new family film. Its repeat at #1 is unusual for a genre film. The just over one-third drop is above average for any second weekend, more so when it opens at the elevated level it did.

With a less competitive period ahead before the post-Super Bowl rebound, this might even have a shot at a third week at #1. At a minimum, “Split” will likely be the director’s biggest success since “The Last Airbender” ($131 million in 2010) or even “Signs” (2002, $228 million).

How Much Damage to “A Dog’s Purpose”? Media coverage of alleged abuse to one of the dogs used in Lasse Hallstrom’s family-oriented adaptation of the best selling canine reincarnation tale, followed by a PETA-organized boycott, may have done some box-office harm. But for Universal, the worst is likely over and the film will have a chance to recover.

This is the third live-action dog story to open in January in recent years. The $18 million + gross comes in below (after adjusting figures for inflation) both “Snow Dogs” (2002, $26.5 million) and “Hotel for Dogs” (2009, $19.7 million). But both of those films debuted on the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, usually an elevated date for family films.

Tracking, particularly for family films, can be unreliable, but before the damning footage this had higher projections. The fierce PR counteroffensive prevented disaster, and of course awareness increased.

Still, it’s wait-and-see if this relatively low-budgeted film ($22 million) can achieve the elevated multiple as its peers (“Hotel” over four times, “Snow” nearly five). With the worst of the bad stories over, and a certain life of perennial showings ahead on cable, Universal looks to have dodged a bullet and delivered a film that looks like a modest success.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”

Screen Gems

“Resident Evil” is the third straight international hit to struggle here. The sixth and possible last entry in the “Resident Evil” franchise grossed nearly the same as Sony’s fifth go-round with “Underworld” only three weeks ago. Their close release dates in North America would seem to belie logic.

But the reality is the logic behind these films doesn’t have lot to do with what makes the most sense for domestic theaters. “Resident” had already opened (very successfully) in South Korea. Its worldwide release is staggered, with many top markets still to come. Expect this “Resident” to struggle to top $30 million in domestic totals, but that might be a pittance compared to the potential $100 million or more it makes overseas.

“Underworld: Blood Wars” managed only around $30 million domestic, a franchise low; however, that might be a quarter of its worldwide total. “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” won’t hit $50 million here (its domestic second weekend dropped 59 percent). With its most important Asian territories yet to open, that might also end up with the same domestic share as “Blood Wars.”

All these films seem profitable, but each is little more than gap-filling fodder for the domestic release schedule. For theaters, it’s a problem when studios commit to titles like these because they likely replace films like “Split.” And with their diminishing returns, they can be a drag on box office totals and reinforce the idea that, more often than not, theater releases are lagging behind home viewing offerings in spark and interest.

Still, don’t expect much to change. As long as these continue to get international response, they will be made.

Oscar results go sky high. With two wide-appeal popular successes getting additional attention from Oscar nominations, this is turning out to be an unusually strong year for increased business. “La La Land” and “Hidden Figures” lead the way, but bubbling under the Top 10, other nominees showed increased interest in runs of over 1,000 theaters.

Here’s how the best ones benefited:

“La La Land”  Lionsgate’s juggernaut trailed “Hidden Figures” in gross, but because of a big jump in theaters (3,136 from under 2,000) it saw a surge of 43 percent, rising to $12 million. That’s where “Silver Linings Playbook” was the weekend of the Oscars four years ago, a month later than where we sit today.

This likely is higher than any upcoming week, even if it wins. Still, it has a strong month ahead; a minimum of $150 million seems certain, and likely much higher. It’s riding a wave of popular appeal that can only help its awards chances.

“Hidden Figures” — This has showed great strength An 11 percent drop this weekend, and third-place showing, shows that even a handful of nominations (three here including Best Picture) works to help an already successful film. This also will reach $150 million, and could go toe to toe with “La La” at the box office in the weeks ahead.


“Lion” — Staying at 575 theaters (expect that to change), this grossed 35 percent more this weekend. Nominations plus additional advertising worked.

“Manchester By the Sea” — Nearly doubling its theater count to 1,168, this grossed over $2 million while its PTA (not enormous) stayed the same. It’s just below $40 million, with $50 million or more possible.

“Moonlight” — Another rebound, to 1,104 theaters, and another $1.5 million added to its total, now just under $18 million. Expect $25 million, terrific for a non-star driven American independent film with critical acclaim (that would be nearly double “Beasts of the Southern Wild”).

“Arrival” — It fell just under $1.5 million, and now with a $100 million domestic total in sight.

“Fences” — Another, lesser Paramount success, it popped 16 percent for $1.4 million and now over $50 million. That’s on a bare-bones $7 million budget. With one or possibly two acting Oscars likely, it could see significant further returns.

That’s seven of the nine Best Picture nominees, all out there for audiences to see. (“Hacksaw Ridge” has been in play longer, but at a lower level saw a big jump, though now mostly at sub-run theaters; “Hell or High Water” is on home viewing platforms already). That makes this year one of the most high-end nomination return results in memory.

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