M. Night Shyamalan’s low-budget psychological horror film “Split” defied expectations Friday, raking in an estimated $14.6 million and prompting industry estimates of between $36 million and $38 million for inauguration weekend.
The Universal/Blumhouse film trounced the other major studio release, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage,” the big-budget Vin Diesel vehicle from Paramount/ Revolution, which only nabbed an estimated $7.2 million and is looking at a weekend plateau of between $18 million and $20 million.
“Split,” which cost about $9 million to make and was self-financed by Shyamalan so that he could retain creative control, was originally predicted to take in around $20 million, as was “Xander Cage,” which cost upward of $85 million. The surprising results demonstrated the continued appeal of the writer-director who first came to prominence with his 1999 thriller, “The Sixth Sense.”
Positive reviews also gave “Split” a boost. The film, which stars James McAvoy as a kidnapper with nearly as many personalities as Baskin-Robbins has flavors, scored a 76% “Fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film site, while “Xander Cage” only managed 42%.
However, “Xander Cage” outdistanced “Split” in terms of audience sentiment, scoring a A- on CinemaScore, which reflects opening night moviegoer reaction. “Split” registered a B-.
The lackluster performance of “Xander Cage” represents a markedly lower opening than the original in the “xXx" trilogy. That film, which starred Diesel as an extreme sports enthusiast turned reluctant spy for the National Security Agency, took in $44.5 million during its opening weekend in 2002. Ice Cube replaced Diesel in the second film, “XXX: State of the Union,” released in 2005.
That film had an unimpressive $12.7-million opening weekend. Diesel’s return to the franchise prompted expectations of a better box office performance.
The weekend’s other opening, the Weinstein Co’s, “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s creator Roy Kroc, did not crack the weekend’s Top 10. Despite the fact that it has an 82% ”Fresh” rating, it made only $1 million, which put it in 11th place.
Awards season heavy heavy hitters "Hidden Figures" and “La La Land” landed in third and fourth place, respectively. “Hidden Figures” nabbed $4.4 million while “La La Land” made $2.4 million.