When Channing Tatum was promoting his latest movie “Dog,” he got the same question over and over again: Does the title character survive through the end credits?

“People were saying ‘I will not see this movie unless I know the dog lives,’” Tatum says, laughing. “‘Marley and Me’ scarred everyone so hard. Everyone has PTSD from it. They will not see a dog movie unless they know for certain that thing doesn’t die.”

Tatum wasn’t initially sure if he should reveal the outcome of the film — which opened last month, in which he stars and co-directed with his producing partner Reid Carolin — about a U.S. Army Ranger who takes a road trip with a Belgian Malinois. “I was so vehemently against telling people the end of my movie, but apparently it works,” he says. “I think I’m going to tell everyone the end of my movies now.”

As the omicron variant swept through the country earlier this year, casting doubt over whether audiences would return to the movies, “Dog” has been one of 2022’s biggest indie success stories. The film, which cost about $15 million to make in the early days of the pandemic, has so far grossed $54.5 million at the domestic box office in five weeks. That’s more tickets sold than “House of Gucci” and many of last fall’s Oscars contenders.

The film’s appeal has rested squarely on Tatum’s shoulders, and proved the 41-year-old actor is still a movie star who can pack seats into multiplex theaters (he’d taken a nearly four-year break from headlining movies, as he discussed recently in a Variety cover story). And Tatum will be back in a studio release this weekend with “The Lost City,” a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock that’s expected to be a hit for Paramount Pictures.

“Dog” came out in theaters from MGM Studios on Feb. 18 and through positive word of mouth, it has continued to have staying power. According to box office receipts, the movie is over-performing in states such as Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee. These moviegoers have been drawn to the film’s message about military service, it seems. And then there’s the pet. “It’s not lost on us that everybody adopted a dog during the pandemic,” says the film’s producer Peter Kiernan. “It’s a collection of themes that are appealing to a wide audience.”

While “Dog” had an exclusive theatrical release, MGM decided to offer it in homes on premium video-on- demand for $20 only 17 days after its theatrical debut. Once that happened, “Dog” ranked No. 1 on the VOD charts last week, as it continue to do business in theaters.

Reid and Carolin, who made “Dog” through their production company, Free Association, talked to Variety about the success of their first directorial effort. They spoke to us from London, where they are shooting “Magic Mike’s Land Dance,” which Carolin wrote (he’d recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantining).

How has it felt to see “Dog” do so well at the box office?

Channing Tatum: I think we’re a little bit beside ourselves. We’re making movies in the dark right now. Everything is changing, between normal society with COVID and the industry with all the streamers. We put our heads down and made a small movie and got lucky in a way that people really responded to it.

Reid Carolin: I will add everybody is very quick to write the epitaph of independent films in theaters and small movies. I just feel really good that a movie like ours worked, because it continues to be a statement that movies like this can go and play on the big screen across the country.

What was it about “Dog” that resonated with audiences?

Tatum: I’ll let you take that one, Reid.

Carolin: People wanted a warm hug. One of the things I heard consistently, a lot of people went in expecting your run-of-the-mill sappy dog movie, and they got something a little extra that they weren’t expecting. I think that helped us with word of mouth. We did really well in markets across the Midwest and South. For whatever reason, it resonated there. It’s playing in middle and small-town America. It’s been on premium demand this last week. They said that’s been coastal. The coasts are still watching at home.

Were you worried that releasing “Dog” on streaming would hurt its theatrical business?

Carolin: That was a tough call to do the 17-day-streaming window. But what it’s showing is there are people who want to see the movie in theaters, and there are people who want to see the movie on PVOD and they are not cannibalizing each other. Last week, some of our weekdays were better than our weekdays on the previous week. That’s partly due to the extra marketing push that went with PVOD. You can do real business on PVOD. I think what’s tougher is if you want to release a movie for free on a streaming service and go in a theater at the same time.

Tatum: I would have loved to know what we could have made the movie for without COVID. I’m glad we finished the movie. We put our own salaries in for this movie. For us to have directed our first movie at that time was so chaotic. It was pure chaos.

Carolin: The industry is split in a fork. There are people doing the streaming model, which is get as much money upfront as you can. And I think for theatrical releases, there’s going to be increased pressure. We learned this model from working with Steven Soderbergh on “Magic Mike.” You drive the cost of the movie down as much as you possibly can without sacrificing quality. The cast and crew basically put their upfront salaries in exchange for backend.

Is there going to be a “Dog” franchise?

Tatum: I would do another “Dog” movie if we got to completely change what it is in terms of horror or something. I’ll do it in terms of something completely different. I want to create a trend: If you make, I don’t know, “Gremlins,” and you make “Gremlins 2,” it has to be a romantic comedy. And then “Gremlins 3” has to be a superhero movie.

I’d watch that.

Tatum: Don’t threaten us.

Carolin: We love a terrible idea.

Channing, how are you feeling about the health of movie theaters this spring ahead of the release of “The Lost City,” which premiered to strong reviews out of SXSW?

Tatum: To be completely honest, I don’t read tracking. It’s not my thing. I don’t think it does good things for my brain — personally, creatively. About “The Lost City,” there’s been more people talking to me about that one, or DMing me about it. It seems to be the tone of the film that people are responding to. They miss the broad-feeling movie.

How has it been shooting “Magic Mike 3″?

Tatum: It’s going well. Without this COVID pop up [a handful of members on the crew have tested positive], we’d probably have been in better shape than we have been for the other movies. I really believe in the creative as far as the dancing goes. I think we have a really strong story that’s going to reimagine and deepen what “Magic Mike” can stand for.

Carolin: From what I’ve seen, even though I’ve been in quarantine the last couple days, the dances are just on a totally other level.

This interview has been edited and condensed.