Expectations for Amblin’s A Dog’s Purpose were fairly high a few weeks ago, as tracking indicated the movie could open with about $27 million. That is hard to imagine for a movie about a dog who dies over and over and over again. But then, Marley and Me made $250 million worldwide a few years ago, so there’s apparently a huge appetite for movies with dogs who die. The thing about most moviegoers, however, is that while they love a good dog death on a movie screen (see also Old Yeller, John Wick), the idea that any animal was hurt during filming is a huge turn-off, so the controversy surrounding A Dog’s Purpose after a dog was mistreated on set while shooting the film may have hurt its box-office prospects. The film ultimately opened this weekend with roughly $18 million, which is below expectations, but still an insane figure for what I can only describe as dog snuff film. It might have helped the film, however, after the author of the bestseller upon which the film is based, Gavin Pollone, spoke out against the mistreatment of a dog, sharing similar concerns as others who saw the video.
In either respect, $18 million is not bad for a film that only cost $22 million to produce. Dog films tend to have decent box-office legs, and with an A Cinemascore, A Dog’s Purpose might have another weekend of good grosses in it before LEGO Batman comes along and puts the film out of its box-office misery, much like the movie did to the dog at the center of the film over and over and over again.
The $18 million gross was not enough, however, to topple M. Night Shyamalan’s Split in its second weekend. In fact, Shyamalan’s Split had a remarkable hold for a horror film, probably due to curiosity over the twist ending, which sets up an exciting future prospect for the series. The film made around $25 million (falling only 35 percent) in its second weekend and it’s closing in on $80 million cumulative, which is exceptional for a movie that cost less than $10 million to produce. In ten days, Split has already exceeded the entire domestic box-office runs of Shyamalan’s last two films, The Visit and After Earth.
Third place this weekend goes to Hidden Figures, which continues to coast along after three Oscar nominations. The film added another $13 million and crossed the $100 million mark. It may stick around in the top ten for another couple of months.