M. Night Shyamalan’s horror-thriller “Split” has taken an impressive $2 million at 2,295 locations in Thursday night preview showings in North America.
“Split” easily outdistanced Thursday night previews of Vin Diesel’s “xXx: Return of Xander Cage,” which took in a decent $1.2 million at 2,536 sites.
Universal is expanding “Split,” starring James McAvoy as a man with 24 personalities, to 3,037 sites on Friday. The Thursday night figure for “Split” doubled the $1 million in previews from Shyamalan’s found-footage horror movie “The Visit,” which scored an opening weekend of $25.4 million two years ago.
Shyamalan produces and directs from his own script in a story of McAvoy’s character capturing three young women. It’s the 12th movie that Shyamalan has directed with 1999’s “The Sixth Sense” remaining the most successful with more than $650 million in worldwide grosses.
“Split” is poised to battle “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” for the top spot at the North American box office crown with recent projections of about $20 million each this coming weekend. Fox’s historical drama “,” which has won the past two weekends, is likely to remain a solid contender in the $15 million to $18 million range.
Critics seem to be embracing “Split,” which carries an 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with McAvoy’s performance receiving strong reviews. Shyamalan is self-financing the project, which costs less than $10 million. He re-teamed with horror specialist Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, two years after they collaborated on “The Visit,” which grossed nearly $100 million worldwide on a $5 million budget.
The Thursday night preview take for Paramount’s “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” debuted comparably to Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” which took in $1.3 million in previews in October on its way to a $22.9 million opening weekend.
“Xander Cage” is expanding to 3,651 sites Friday with Diesel reprising his government operative character who debuted in the 2002 movie “xXx.” The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, and Nina Dobrev.
D.J. Caruso directs from a script by F. Scott Frazier, which centers on Diesel’s Xander Cage coming out of self-imposed exile in a race to recover a seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. Critical support has been lagging with a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Xander Cage” has an $85 million budget with backing from Chinese companies Huahua Media and Shanghai Film Group. Paramount and the two companies announced a three-year $1 billion co-financing deal on Thursday.
“Return of Xander Cage” also opens in 53 international markets (representing 54% of the ultimate international footprint), including U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and India. “Xander Cage” producers are Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Diesel, and Samantha Vincent.
“Hidden Figures,” which has already taken in a strikingly strong $66 million after two weekends in wide release, is pegged for a third-place finish this weekend. The story, set amid the early 1960s space race, focusing on a trio of pioneering African-American women — played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae — is playing at 3,416 sites.
Lionsgate’s awards season contender “La La Land” should follow in fourth with around $12 million at 1,865 theaters. The musical comedy-drama has topped $80 million domestically in six weeks.
Disney’s sixth weekend of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Illumination-Universal’s fifth weekend of “Sing,” and Lionsgate’s “Patriots Day” will battle for sixth place with about $8 million each. “Rogue One” has taken in $504 million domestically as of Wednesday.
The Weinstein Company is also opening the biopic “The Founder” at about 1,100 locations, but tracking is not showing much interest among moviegoers, with early estimates of under $5 million for the weekend. TWC had hoped that the Michael Keaton vehicle, recreating the early days of the McDonald’s chain, would be an awards-season contender, but the film isn’t expected to be a factor.
Keaton portrays McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch co-star as McDonald’s founders Richard and Maurice McDonald.
BH Tilt is also releasing the faith-based title “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” in 887 locations with hopes for a $3 million launch. The sites were selected because they are historically frequented by faith-based audiences.
“Gavin Stone” is an inspirational comedy in which a washed-up former child star is forced to do community service at a local mega-church and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in the annual Passion play. Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Shawn Michaels, D.B. Sweeney, and Neil Flynn star.