He did it.
In a feat that many critics thought the director could never achieve again, M. Night Shyamalan broke a string of box office duds to have the top film in North America. And he did it by man-handling Vin Diesel.
Split, a horror film starring James McAvoy losing control of his various personalities, destroyed the box office competition this weekend, earning $40.2 million, according to early box office estimates compiled by The Numbers. It nearly doubled the weekend of Diesel’s movie, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which Paramount Pictures says made just $20.1 million.
Made on a reported budget of just $5 million, Shyamalan jumped back into movie directing relevance with a powerful film that just meant a minimal risk for Universal Pictures – and already a large return.
It’s the biggest opening for Shyamalan since The Last Airbender in 2010, and the first time he has had a film at the top of the box office since The Village earned $50.7 million in July 2004.
Shyamalan not only quieted his long-time critics, but also proved that this particular weekend in January can be a prosperous one for Hollywood. Just last year, the top film at the box office was The Revenant, which only needed $16 million to claim the crown.
Hidden Figures, which unseated Rogue One as the top film in the nation two weeks ago, fell to No. 3 with $16.3 million.
However, the Taraji P. Henson vehicle has earned an impressive $84.2 million in a month that started it in limited release.
The musicals Sing and La La Land rounded out the top five with $17.4 million between them, while Rogue One held on to No. 6 with $7 million.
Return of Xander Cage was yet another disappointment for Paramount, which had a tough 2016, and already has chalked up a misstep this year with the bombing of Monster Trucks last week. The opening for the Diesel movie fell way short of the $44.5 million opening (or $59.6 million today) of the original xXx in 2002.
However, it’s not all bad news for the xXx franchise. Return of Xander Cage had a much more solid opening than the second film in the series, xXx: State of the Union, which earned just $12.7 million on its opening weekend in 2005. State of the Union went on to earn $26.9 million domestically, something Return of Xander Cage will easily beat by its second weekend.
Still, Paramount has a little ways to go before it can expect to make back its $85 million investment in the film.
The only other major new release for the weekend was the religious-themed The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, which barely registered on the charts with $1.2 million on just 887 screens. At the same time, the Michael Keaton film The Founder has, at least to this point, remained in the top 10, expanding wide to earn $3.8 million.
Overall, it was a solid weekend for theaters, as the top five films in early estimates earned $93.9 million – up 46 percent from a year ago when it was The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the top of the box office.
Split not only was tops at the overall box office, but it also finished with an impressive $13,227 per screen compared to just $5,505 from Return of Xander Cage.
Next weekend has wide release debuts from Universal Pictures, the Weinstein Co. and Sony Pictures with A Dog’s Purpose, Gold and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
Dog’s Purpose, with Dennis Quaid and Josh Gad, has received some negative publicity over the past week over what was said to be abuse of the dogs used in the film, something novel author W. Bruce Cameron flatly denies.
Gold is exactly what the title says – Matthew McConaughey pursuing gold in Indonesia with Edgar Ramirez and Bryce Dallas Howard.
The Final Chapter, of course, is the sixth film in the Milla Jovovich franchise that has earned $941.5 million globally, including $31.6 million Final Chapter already has picked up in overseas markets.
Updated to correct the medical condition suffered by the main character in Split.
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