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Can ‘Split’ Scare ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Away From No. 1?; ‘La La Land’ Dancing To $100M – Box Office Preview

Deadline logo Deadline 1/26/2017 Anthony D'Alessandro
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Despite forecasts this week projecting Amblin/Walden Media/Universal’s A Dog’s Purpose as the clear winner at the domestic box office with an opening north of $20 million, tracking this morning indicates that Uni/Blumhouse’s Split has a good shot at holding on to its top spot after debuting to $40M last weekend.

The $9M psychological thriller from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has had a terrific week, on course for a $50M running total today. Genre titles are notorious for their huge second-weekend drops, but Shyamalan’s fare typically bests the norm — The Visit (-55%), Unbreakable (-52%), and Signs (-52%) were all strong for thrillers, with The Sixth Sense easing a mindblowing -3% back in summer 1999. Many are expecting a $20M second FSS take for Split.

Tracking for A Dog’s Purpose has stalled in the wake of TMZ leaking a video that shows a German shepherd struggling to perform in artificial rapids. Deadline’s Anita Busch has covered the fallout from this mess and the ire raised by animal rights groups and the filmmakers. Originally, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed family film hit the tracking boards four weeks ago with a $27M projected opening. That since has fallen to $18M, and some even see it at $13M. Nonetheless, Fandango shows A Dog’s Purpose as the weekend’s top ticket seller. News recently hit that PETA is planning protests in multiple cities tomorrow night at theaters showing A Dog’s Purpose.

Whether Split or A Dog’s Purpose takes No. 1, what is certain is that Universal will be the clear winner this weekend, owning the No. 1 and No. 2 titles. A Dog’s Purpose is booked at 3,050 locations, and previews start tonight at 6 PM. The pic cost a reported $22M before P&A.

A Dog’s Purpose is based on the 2010 book by W. Bruce Cameron, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks. It centers on a dog who realizes the meaning of his life after being re-incarnated, which puts him into the lives of many owners. The family film stars Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton and Britt Robertson. Josh Gad is the voice of the dog.

Social Media monitor RelishMix reports this morning that the social buzz for A Dog’s Purpose “falls essentially into one of two categories. The first are the fans who read the book or saw the trailer early on or have dogs that they love. And everyone in this category fully expects the movie to be the tear-jerker advertised in the film’s videos and consistent with the novel. But the other category are the vocal naysayers who are upset at the allegations of abuse on the film’s set. They are using the comments sections to voice their opinions on animal rights, PETA and other more issue oriented discussion. The positive convo definitely outweighs the allegations discussion. Whether or not the controversy affects Purpose’s opening-weekend receipts remains to be seen. But the alleged abuse has certainly contributed to the film’s convo but not completely by any means.”

In the wake of the controversy, Quaid, who is not social, given many interviews on various entertainment talk shows concerning the allegations, with the entire situation having quite an effect on the cast. Last weekend, Uni cancelled the film’s premiere and press junket.

Also opening wide this weekend is Screen Gems/Sony’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapterwhich, similar to the genre label’s other recent long-in-the-tooth franchise release, Underworld: Blood Wars, is making more of a play for overseas ticket sales than domestic. Sony projects that Resident Evil’s worldwide B.O. will stand at $70M by Sunday, with industry projections stateside between $14M-$15M at 3,104 locations. It will take a nip at Split‘s B.O., but not by much. 2,464 locations will begin previews tonight at 7 PM. Already The Final Chapter, inspired by the Capcom video game, has charted a record haul for the franchise in Japan with $35M — not a bad start for a movie that cost $40M (before global P&A). The six-title series has grossed north of $1 billion worldwide.

Paramount/Revolution’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage is also expected to dip at least 50% for a $10M this weekend. Through Wednesday, the Vin Diesel sequel has grossed $24.3M stateside. Industry observers expect Lionsgate’s La La Land, after collecting 14 Oscar noms on Tuesday, to hit $10M too as it expands from 1,865 to 3,136 locations, sending its overall domestic cume to $100M.

Lastly, Weinstein Co.’s Gold, based on the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal, is expected to buckle with $4M-$5M. That’s unfortunate as Matthew McConaughey gives another fantastic character performancthis time as a wavy-haired, chain-smoking prospector. TWC pushed Gold during awards season, but Globes, SAG and AMPAS voters didn’t buy it.

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