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Box Office: ‘Split’ to Scare Off ‘Rings’ for Three-Peat Over Slow Super Bowl Weekend

Horror is dominating at North American mulitplexes as “Split” looks to edge out the opening of “Rings” with $13.5 million at 3,373 sites during the Super Bowl weekend, early estimates showed Friday.

Paramount’s opening weekend of “Rings” is creeping up on about $800,000 less with $12.7 million at 2,931 locations. STX’s launch of teen sci-fi romance “The Space Between Us” looks to show little traction with $5 million at 2,812 screens, under-performing what were modest expectations.

Fox’s awards-season stalwart “Hidden Figures” — fresh from winning a SAG Award for best cast — is heading for a third-place finish at $10.3 million at 3,401 locations. That would mean a decline of only 27% from the previous session with the total U.S. box office hitting nearly $120 million by the end of Sunday.

Universal’s second weekend of Amblin’s doggie drama “A Dog’s Purpose” is chasing fourth place with $8.8 million at 3,178 screens, declining 52% from its opening frame — which was dominated by a call for a boycott from PETA due to a leaked video showing a German shepherd’s reluctance to perform a stunt. Despite the negative publicity, the $25 million project should wind up the weekend with a total domestic gross topping $30 million.

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Lionsgate’s “La La Land,” which registered wins last weekend from SAG for Emma Stone and as the Producers Guild’s top movie, is pegged for fifth place with an estimated $6.3 million at 3,236 sites for a 48% decline. “La La Land,” which scored a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations on Jan. 24, should wind up the weekend with $117 million in U.S. grosses in two months.

Split,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring James McAvoy, has been churning out profits for Universal, Blumhouse and Shyamlan, who self-financed the title for less than $10 million. Its 17-day total will be at $98 million by the end of the weekend.

“Split” remains a critical favorite with a 74% “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a stark comparison with “Rings,” which has been savaged by reviewers for a 6% “rotten” score.

“Rings” appears to be performing at the top end of expectations, which were in the $10 million to $12 million range. Paramount opened “Rings” with a straight-forward pitch about an evil videotape — “First you watch it. Then you die.” It revives the franchise 15 years after it launched “The Ring,” starring Naomi Watts in a remake of a 1998 Japanese horror film.

“Rings” stars Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden and Bonnie Morgan. F. Javier Gutierrez is directing “Rings,” and Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are producing. “Rings,” which has a $25 million price tag, is also opening in 36 international markets this weekend.

The Space Between Us” stars Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, and Britt Robertson. Butterfield portrays the first human born on Mars, and the inter-planetary friendship he forms with a foster girl (played by Robertson) who lives on Earth. “The Space Between Us” cost $30 million to produce. STX picked up the project from Relativity as that company went into bankruptcy, so STX’s financial exposure was less than $3.7 million after foreign sales, tax credits, and co-financing deals are taken into account.

Sony Pictures Classics is opening Robert De Niro’s comedy-drama “The Comedian” at 848 locations this weekend with expectations for a modest start in the $2 million to $3 million range.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said the weekend will be one of the slowest in recent years. Five of Super Bowl weekends since 2007 have totaled less than $100 million in overall box office, including last year’s $95.5 million take when the second weekend of  “Kung Fu Panda 3” led with $21 million, followed by an $11 million launch for George Clooney’s “Hail, Caesar!”

“Super Bowl weekend generally scores a bigger touchdown for football than it does the movies and this year is no exception,” he said.

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