Prognosticators expected this movie to be frontloaded like all genre films before it — that’s why this benchmark for this $9M-budgeted production is so remarkable. While it’s Shyamalan’s fifth title to cross $100M, among his genre pics it’s his first to rally past the century mark in 13 years, the last being 2004’s The Village (final domestic $114.1M). After that was his 2010 live-action version of the Nickelodeon animated series The Last Airbender, which grossed $131.8M. For Blumhouse, Split is its third $100M-grossing title after Paranormal Activity ($107.9M) and Paranormal Activity 3 ($104M).
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Split was initially expected to take No. 1 in its first weekend with a low to mid $20M take, and Vin Diesel’s xXx: The Return of Xander Cage not far behind with a high-teens to low-$20M three-day. However, it was James McAvoy’s multiple personalities that smoked the extreme sports spy movie out in the end with an opening of $40M, Shyamalan’s fourth-best debut in his 25 years as a filmmaker as well as Blumhouse fourth to open north of that B.O. mark.
Split‘s first weekend also underscored Shyamalan’s serious following at the B.O., which distributors can bank on. Even more impressive, his films under a traditional studio model ranged from $40M-$150M in production costs, but here with Blumhouse he has posted a thick profit margin with Split which now counts $144.4M worldwide with $101.1M stateside. The filmmaker’s previous Blumhouse collaboration The Visit was also bona fide with a $5M production cost and $98.5M global haul.
Split posted a first day of $14.6M, juiced by a solid $2M in Thursday previews. It swelled on Saturday by close to 13% with $16.5M, a day when most genre pics fall down or ease. By Hollywood textbook standards, franchise xXx with its mighty cost before P&A of $85M should have won out, but the counterprogramming choice did instead.
Split has benefited from great reviews, which earned a 75% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s been the trend throughout last year that critically acclaimed genre fare simply translates to big bucks at the B.O. — see The Conjuring 2 ($102.4M) and Don’t Breathe ($89.2M). Universal has implemented an efficient marketing push for Split including runs at Fantastic Fest, AFI and a 24-city word-of-mouth screening program, one for each of James McAvoy’s personalities in the film.
But there’s one thing that keep Shyamalan fans coming back to Split, and without spoiling too much, let’s just say we learn that the movie is connected to another title in the filmmaker’s canon.
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