Coming off of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend that was jammed with adult-targeted films, three more pictures merge into heavy box office traffic this coming weekend with the Universal/Blumhouse psychological thriller Split from M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures’ xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which stars an international cast led by social media superstar Vin Diesel. Both go wide as TWC’s The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s mogul Ray Kroc, will open in about 1,100 locales.
Defending weekend champ Hidden Figures now should see its grosses start to drop, but the film clearly captured, as one distribution exec puts it, “the current sentiment of the country (who are) looking for ‘an expression of higher aspiration.'” The film has crossed demos and aisles as it is getting thumbs-up from black and white, the left and the right. It should sail easily over the $100M at the end of its play — perhaps to $115M-$120M+ to sit right alongside the final gross of the carefully platformed La La Land as well.
The NFL’s Championship Sunday, which has four teams battling for a spot in the Super Bowl, should bite into a chunk of the films targeted to male demos such as xXx, the third film in the franchise. The last xXx came out in 2005 but did not star Vin Diesel.
Industry estimates for the moment have the female-targeted Split taking the weekend with a low- to mid-$20M, while xXx is expected to take in the high-teens to low-$20M. On its side is the fact that you have a big international star returning to the franchise and it’s also playing on Imax screens. It previews at 7 PM Thursday.
Split is said to be growing more rapidly on tracking, but that happens traditionally with horror films. The film stars an unrecognizable James McAvoy playing a kidnapper with 24 different personalities. To capitalize on that, the studio has been heavily screening this edgy psychological film (24 times, get it?) to generate positive word-of-mouth going prior to launch. It opens in previews on Thursday, also at 7 PM. The horror audience has been underserved, and that was proved by the overperformance this past weekend of STX’s The Bye Bye Man.
Looking ahead, Split just might be the first of many strong box office performances for Universal Pictures, which has a pretty diverse upcoming slate that includes A Dog’s Purpose, Fifty Shades Darker, The Great Wall and Get Out.
That brings us to the Weinstein Co.’s The Founder, which had been moved around the release schedule a few times before settling on this date. Unfortunately, the pic might get lost in the mix of all the adult-themed films that absolutely cannibalized each other this past weekend. Gotta think that August of last year was probably the better play for this film, which would have given it some time and space to breathe and the ability for its audience to actually find it. It is expected to gross only $2M to $3M. As good as Oscar nominee Keaton is in this film, it is expected to be one of his lowest openers.