Jason Blum is the best thing to happen to M. Night Shyamalan’s career since The Sixth Sense. After years of making increasingly expensive, critically derided movies (After Earth, The Last Airbender, The Happening), Shyamalan brought the low-budget horror film, The Visit to Blumhouse Productions in 2015. Not only was it Shyamalan’s best film in 15 years, the return on investment was huge. It earned $95 million worldwide on a $5 million budget. It also resuscitated Shyamalan’s flailing career.
This weekend, Shyamalan returned with another Blumhouse Production, Split, and the results were even better. The film, which stars James McAvoy as a man with 23 distinct personalities, was again intimate and small in scale, and again, it cost only $5 million to produce. It earned around $40 million in its opening weekend, landing in the top spot. Without giving away too much to those who haven’t seen Split yet, it also set up a tantalizing future prospect for longtime Shyamalan fans. With high critics scores (76 percent on Rotten Tomotoes), a huge opening weekend, and the possibility of a sequel, it was a unqualified success for Shyamalan, and the film’s post-credits sequence should keep viewers coming out for a few more weeks, at least.
The news wasn’t so great for Vin Diesel, who sought to revive his xXx franchise by bringing the same sense of outlandish fun of the Fast and Furious series to this installment. It didn’t go as well as hoped. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage mustered a disappointing $20 million for the weekend, which means it’s going to need help from international audiences to recoup its $85 million budget. It was an odd franchise to attempt to revive. Vin Diesel bailed on the critically lambasted second film (which outright bombed with $26 million domestic) and returned for the third film after a 15-year absence. Films with long gaps between sequels have historically not done well. For Diesel, it’s more proof after Babylon A.D., Riddick, and The Last Witch Hunter that he doesn’t have a huge amount of drawing power on his own, although like some other stars with minimal box-office power stateside (e.g., Tom Cruise), Diesel is still a huge sell overseas.
The rest of the weekend’s top ten were all holdovers. The number one film from the last couple of weeks, Hidden Figures, fell to number three, but it still added another $16 million to bring its total to around $83 million, making $100 million all but assured. La La Land, meanwhile, continues to slowly add to its overall numbers. After an $8 million weekend, it’s approaching $90 million cumulative as it heads into this week’s Oscar nominations. Sing and Rogue One also continue to truck right along, grossing more than $250 million and $511 million, respectively.
There was no life, however, in last week’s holdovers, all of which flopped or underperformed in their first frame. Monster Trucks held the best, falling only 42 percent, but the $6 million it added in its second weekend is not going to help much to recoup the $125 million price-tag. Mark Wahlberg’s Patriot’s Day didn’t seem to benefit much from its A+ Cinemascores, as it fell 54 percent, adding only $5 million to bring its total to around $21 million. Jamie Foxx’s Sleepleess only added $3.1 million in its second weekend, while Bye Bye Man — the top new entry last weekend — dropped a whopping 76 percent, falling behind all the movies it beat out last week. Ben Affleck’s Live By Night also had a big drop, falling 68 percent and scoring only $1.3 million for the weekend. It is an outright bomb. Martin Scorsese’s Silence, likewise, is a total afterthought this week, earning less than $1 million.
The disappointing flop this weekend, however, is Michael Keaton’s The Founder, a terrific film about how Ray Croc robbed the McDonald’s brothers of their franchise. Perhaps the fact that Croc was a very Trump-like figure didn’t help matters on Inauguration Weekend, but as dispiriting as the film is, it’s also a huge compelling real-life story featuring a phenomenal Keaton performance. The Weinstein Company kind of buried the film, which made around $3.7 million, but it deserves to be seen.
Next week’s box-office will see the debuts of the controversial A Dog’s Purpose, the final Resident Evil film, and Gold, the Matthew McConaughey film that was pushed off its original Christmas Day release.