M Night’s Split Surprises, Diesel’s xXx Falters
By John Hamann
January 22, 2017
After a wild MLK weekend, where seven films finished the three-day portion of the weekend with $10 million or more, and we had three net new openers and three more expansions, some might have believed that things were going to settle down this weekend. Not so much.
Openers this weekend include Split, the new horror/thriller from M Night Shyamalan and Jason Blum, and starring a wild looking James McAvoy. We also have the return of Vin Diesel to the lead role in the xXx series, this one titled xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Other featured new films were The Founder, with Michael Keaton as Ray Croc, the brains behind the early days of McDonald’s, and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a comedy that seems to have failed to advertise except to church-goers. Then we have the expanders, as Silence tries again this weekend, bringing its total up to 1,580 venues, while 20th Century Women expands to 650 screens.
Our number one film of the weekend is a bit of surprise, as the weekend winner is Split, the new horror film from M Night Shyamalan, who has his second consecutive hit following 2015’s The Visit. That film managed to earn $100 million worldwide against a budget of $5 million. The Visit got started on a slow September weekend but still managed to open to $25.4 million, in second behind The Perfect Guy, which won out by only about $400,000. That was September 9, 2015. This is January, which can mean good results at the box office (it’s about a 1,000 times better weekend to open a film). There was not going to be a second place finish for Split, so M Night Shyamalan is on top for the first time since The Village opened to $50.7 million way back in the summer of 2004.
Yes, Shyamalan’s reign of inconsistency ends this weekend, with a number one film this weekend and a second place debut for his previous film. The latest reign started on Thursday night, when Split earned a very solid $2 million from previews. Ride Along 2 earned less from previews over a late January weekend last year, pulling in $1.26 million on its way to a $35.2 million opening frame. The comedy sequel had a first day take of $11.9 million, and Split did much better with its combined Thursday preview/first Friday gross, as it came in at a powerful $14.6 million. All of a sudden, Split was going to play amongst the bigger January titles of all time – Lone Survivor is currently fifth best all time in January with an opening frame of $37.8 million – a number that Split would be looking for over the remainder of the weekend. We learned last weekend through The Bye Bye Man that audiences were hungry for thrills, and Split more than proves that.
The weekend gross for Split came in at a totally unexpected $40.2 million, making it the fourth biggest opener all-time for the month of January. Split blew tracking away, as prognosticators were looking for a mid-$20 million start. Who is happiest about this result? Shyamalan, and not for financial reasons. He has now gotten his reputation back after delivering two good movies since After Earth bombed so spectacularly in 2013, earning $60.5 million on the domestic side against a budget of $130 million. Second happiest has to be Jason Blum, who has a piece of this one. Split cost only $9 million to make, which means it made almost four times its budget over opening weekend. Domestic marketing costs were reported in the trades to be around $20 million, with at least a similar amount overseas. The marketing was almost perfect – the TV ads were plentiful and kind of thrilling. Split was everywhere heading into the weekend, and that kind of awareness paid off big time.