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.
In at fourth place is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the final installment in a six-movie franchise that has unbelievably crossed $1 billion in box-office receipts. The final film, however, was something of a dud. It looks like it will end the weekend with something around $13.8 million, which is the worst opening weekend of the series’ run (the last film, 2012’s Retribution, opened with $21 million). It’s hard to say whether the fact that a stuntwoman almost died on set hurt the film’s prospects, but I did see plenty of people bring it up on social media this weekend.
Fortunately for Sony, however, American audiences are not depended upon to make Resident Evil movies a success. American audiences, after all, only contributed 17 percent of the eventual $240 million haul for Retribution. After worldwide grosses are accounted for, expect The Final Chapter to easily clear its $40 million price tag. Nevertheless, Sony had to be disappointed with the domestic take (and the reviews for the film, which have been dismal.
Slots five through nine all went to holdovers this weekend. La La Land continues its consistent performance, adding around $11 million and bringing its overall total to $106 million. xXx: The Return Xander Cage, which had a disappointing opening weekend last week, continues to stumble, dropping nearly 70 percent to come in at number six, with around $32 million cumulative. Sing is hanging in there (and should for another two weeks, before LEGO Batman steals all of its screens), adding $6 million to bring its total to nearly $260 million. Rogue One added $5 million (it’s now made $520 million domestic), and in at number nine, Monster Trucks added $4 million. Its box-office total is $28 million, well short of its $125 million price tag, making it one of the biggest flops in recent memory. (The $20 million it has added worldwide isn’t helping much.)
Speaking of flops, Matthew McConaughey has turned in another. Gold, like Michael Keaton’s The Founder, was supposed to compete for Oscars this season. Despite strong performances from their leads, both movies have performed terribly. That’s a bigger disappointment for The Founder, which is actually a terrific movie (it came in at number 11 in its second weekend with $2.5 million). Gold meanwhile, features a strong McConaughey performance, but not even McConaughey could save the movie. It’s not a very good film, and it’s McConaughey’s third live-action dud in a row after Free State of Jones and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, which made only $20,000 despite opening in 100 theaters. We probably could have predicted Gold’s failure after the Weinsteins moved it off its original Christmas Day release. I wouldn’t worry too much about McConaughey, however. He should bounce back nicely with The Dark Tower, which opens this summer.