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Box Office: ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Licked by ‘Resident Evil’ on Thursday

Variety logo Variety 1/27/2017 Dave McNary
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Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” opened with a solid $1 million at 2,464 North America locations in Thursday night previews.

That was more than double the take for Universal’s controversial family drama “A Dog’s Purpose,” which launched with a moderate $455,000 in 2,255 domestic sites.

“Resident Evil: Final Chapter” is projected to finish the weekend with about $13 million to $14 million at 3,104 sites. The film — which has a $40 million price tag — marks the sixth and final installment in the franchise adaptation of Capcom’s video game series.

Milla Jovovich — who has been in all six movies — portrays the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”), Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, South Korean actor Lee Joon-Gi and Fraser James also star with  Paul W.S. Anderson returning to direct.

“A Dog’s Purpose” faces serious challenges this weekend in the face of a week-old call for a boycott of the canine feel-good film, which opens at 3,058 North American locations. Even with the controversy, “A Dog’s Purpose” may still win the weekend with projections of a launch in the $18 million to $22 million range — slightly lower than pre-boycott estimates.

Universal Pictures is releasing the movie for Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media, following one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans over several lifetimes.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has blistered everyone involved with the movie in the wake of the Jan. 18 release of a leaked video showing a German Shepherd named Hercules balking at performing a stunt in churning water. Producer Gavin Polone, director Lasse Hallstrom, co-screenwriter W. Bruce Cameron and animal trainers from Birds and Animals Unlimited have said TMZ and PETA mischaracterized what actually took place — insisting that Hercules was reluctant to go into water only because he had not rehearsed at the specific  location.

Universal canceled the premiere and the film’s press junket. The film was produced for about $22 million range and stars Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance and Pooch Hall.

Universal may be competing against itself for the top spot, with the second weekend of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” expected to finish in the high teens. “Split,” starring James McAvoy as a deranged hostage taker with 24 personalities, opened with a surprisingly strong $40 million in its opening weekend with solid support from all demographics.

The Weinstein Company’s Matthew McConaughey adventure “Gold” is opening this weekend amid muted expectations for a take in the $4 million to $5 million range at 2,166 sites. McConaughey stars as a businessman who discovers a massive gold deposit in a remote Indonesian jungle. Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell and Craig T. Nelson co-star.

The weekend will also see expansions of films with in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement of Academy Awards nominations. Lionsgate’s “La La Land” will jump from 1,850 domestic locations to 3,136 locations Friday to capitalize on its record-tying 14 Oscar nominations.

Projections are for a $10 million frame for the musical comedy-drama, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. “La La Land” has grossed  $94 million domestically and $92 million internationally.

Paramount is seeking an Oscar bump for “Arrival,” which scored eight nominations including best picture, from 180 sites to 1,221 this weekend with bonus footage included. “Arrival” has grossed a surprisingly strong $96 million after nearly three months in theaters along with $67 million internationally. The return engagement for the alien invasion thriller should push “Arrival” past the $100 million mark domestically.

“Manchester by the Sea,” from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions, is more than doubling its screen count from 543 to 1,163. The drama received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams) and Best Original Screenplay. “Manchester” has grossed more than $39 million domestically after two months in theaters.

A24’s “Moonlight,” which scored eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, will also see a major expansion with the locations doubling from 489 to 1,004. “Moonlight” has totalled $16 million in three months of limited release.

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