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Did Controversy Impact ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ At The Box Office? – Sunday Update

Deadline logo Deadline 1/29/2017 Anthony D'Alessandro
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5th Writethru Sunday AM: We had a feeling Thursday about how this weekend would go down. Given its great weekday momentum, it was obvious that Uni/Blumhouse’s Split would hold on to No. 1 with an estimated $26.3M while the embattled Amblin/Walden Media’s A Dog’s Purpose also from Uni would settle for second with $18.38M.

Distributors are divided as to whether the box office for A Dog’s Purpose was dinged by fallout over the TMZ video showing a German shepherd being forced to perform against his will in artificial rapids. Some argue that such controversies do not weigh on moviegoers’ minds and dictate ticket-buying habits. Certain tracking services saw A Dog’s Purpose opening as high as $27M four weeks ago, and now the pic looks to be coming in (based on Friday night ticket sales) just under $20M. Others however point to big films like Lego Batman and Fifty Shades Darker coming onto tracking (which can dilute other films’ projections and polling responses).

But before PETA can claim any victory in regards to hurting a movie’s ticket sales this weekend, we need to take a breath, consider a few things and realize that A Dog’s Purpose‘s opening is still doggone good.

Well, how’s that?

Among the top 10 openings for dog movies at the B.O.,  most of which are based on franchises or feature big stars (Scooby-Doo is tops with $54.1M while the Jennifer Aniston feature Marley & Me is No. 2 with $36.4M), A Dog’s Purpose is ranked 9th, ahead of such successful titles as Disney’s Snow Dogs ($17.8M), Paramount’s Hotel for Dogs ($17m) and Disney’s 2006 reboot of The Shaggy Dog ($16.3M).

It stands to reason that A Dog’s Purpose would chart in the high teens based on how similar it is to the vanilla canine predecessors it’s beating. And it’s for this reason that we can’t say the controversy has killed the film. A Dog’s Purpose didn’t star Anistonnor was it based on a popular cartoon like 101 Dalmatians or Scooby-Doo, nor did it have the dazzle in its materials ala a Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua. That 2008 movie was promoted months in advance, was sold heavily on its comedy and was topped off with a catchy film trailer ditty “Aye! Chihuahua!” A Dog’s Purpose is more tame, straight-up family and more in sync with movies like Hotel For Dogs and Max. It wasn’t sold as the second coming of Lassie or Benji, and in fact — mind you, this was completely unintentional on behalf of the studios involved — the controversy arguably raised A Dog’s Purpose‘s profile.

“The fact is that we resonated so well in the heartland of America,” Universal distribution chief Nick Carpou said this morning. “This movie is made for dog lovers and families and it delivers a wonderful message there, and the A CinemaScore shows that. Compared to other films of its ilk, this is a success story for A Dog’s Purpose.

When I first heard that the projections for A Dog’s Purpose were north of $20M, I found it quite unbelievable, particularly for a film built at a low cost ($22M before P&A) for the flyover-state crowd. A dog movie? “Yeah, a dog movie,” one non-Uni distribution source told me. “They always make money.” Max, another goody-goody low-budget family canine film, opened to $12.1M two summers ago, so how could A Dog’s Purpose do more business? For one, A Dog’s Purpose is based on a New York Times bestseller by W. Bruce Cameron that stayed on the newspaper’s list for 49 weeks. It deals with the idea of reincarnation, so right there that established IP was able to spike total awareness to 80% on NRG and led some to predict a $20M-plus opening.

Still, bestseller aside, it stood to reason that A Dog’s Purpose would slot a high-teen opening. It was arriving in the wake of a crowded holiday marketplace, one that’s recently dominated by a fresh M. Night Shyamalan title that’s been performing strongly throughout the week (Split by Sunday should be at $77M). It only made sense for Split‘s momentum to carryover, not to mention Shyamalan’s titles have proven to beat the genre film curse of the steep second weekend drop and this one is looking to dip an amazing 37%.

A Dog’s Purpose gets an A CinemaScore, which is in line with other Fido films like Eight Below, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Marley & Me (all A CinemaScores) and is better than Hotel For Dogs (A-) and Snow Dogs (A-).

Post controversy, exhibitors were in fact requesting more prints of A Dog’s Purpose. The movie overindexed in the heartland — middle America places like Toledo, Cincinnati, Madison, and Indianapolis — particularly when compared to other animal pics like Dolphin Tale 2 (opening $15.8M). Top markets for A Dog’s Purpose were Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C.

If controversy truly kills A Dog’s Purpose, then we’ll see it next week, because canine titles have long legs, like 2006’s Eight Below ($20.1M opening, $81.6M, 4x) and 2009’s Hotel For Dogs ($17M, $73M final domestic, 4.3x). A Dog’s Purpose brought in mostly older women at 66% females, 61% over 25, with 73% saying they bought tickets because of the subject matter. Saturday ticket sales were +46% with $7.7M over pic’s Friday of $5.3M; a clear indication that matinee business is working as well as word of mouth. On PostTrak, 56% said they would definitely recommend A Dog’s Purpose to their friends while 39% said they will probably recommend it. High marks.

Sony/Screen Gems has Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in the mixIts weekend looked promising with a $1M Thursday night start. But that’s where the fandom ends as most audiences are going to sit this one out for the next two days. Sony is calling the opening weekend at $13.85M, at the lower end of its teen projections and the lowest domestic opening for any title in the 15-year old franchise based on the Capcom game. For Sony, it was always about rallying the foreign audiences with this sequel. They’re already celebrating that the franchise is crossing $1 billion worldwide. Considering that these movies make 80% or more of their global haul abroad should mean that this $40M production (before P&A) will be OK. It already has cashed in $35M from Japan and Sony reports that overseas the pic is at $64.5M after earning another $28.3M overaseas bringing global ticket sales to $78.4M. This is the biggest start for a Resident Evil per Sony and it wouldn’t be unusual if the movie clears $200M worldwide. The highest grossing title in the series worldwide is 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife with $296.2M which was riding the coattails of the post-Avatar 3D fad, and second belongs to 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution which locked down $240.1M around the globe.

Final Chapter gets a B CinemaScore on par with its 2002 title and 2004 sequel, and better than the C+ it earned with previous installment Retribution in 2012. Maybe the movie should have been PG-13 instead of R because the under 18 crowd loved it with an A+, but only 9% of them were able to buy tickets. Crowd here was comprised of 60% males, 70% over 25. Thirty-four percent bought tickets for Milla Jovovich, while 49% said it was because it was a Resident Evil movie. Still, all this low-budget, tired catalog titles aside, we’re still waiting for the Culver City lot to shake up the box office in the Spider-Man sense of the word. Will it be with Ryan Reynolds’ sci-fi thriller Life on March 24?

Weinstein Co.’s Gold is anything but that at the box office, set to rank 10th with an estimated $3.47M at 2,166 theaters. Like The Founder last weekend, the Matthew McConaughey movie suffers from a lack of awards mojo. Though Founder earned great reviews, critics threw Gold out the window with a 38% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Audiences aren’t any kinder giving it a B-. PostTrak’s polling of moviegoers didn’t show better prospects with 67% giving Gold a positive score.  It’s too bad because it’s a fun movie, and might have found an audience during the summer as specialty counter-programming. Old men bought tickets here at 59% males, 54% over 50. Fifty-four percent bought tickets because they’re McConaughey fans.

TWC is faring better with its six-Oscar nominated Lion which saw a 35% hike in its weekend take with $2.38M and a near $20M running total in its 10th weekend at 575 runs. Oscar nominated pics typically see percent hikes because distributor’s have upped their theater counts, but the wonder of Lion is that TWC kept its theater count at 575 venues; the percent hike is a clear indicator of moviegoers’ want-to-see with this six Oscar-nominated pic. Also, Founder is holding well, projected to be -21%.

The afterglow of Oscar nominations is shining brightly. Seven of the nine best picture nominees saw percent hikes as most of them swelled their theater counts. Last night’s PGA feature winner La La Land as well as 20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures flew past the $100M mark this weekend.

Below are figures based on studio reported figures for the weekend of Jan. 27-29:

1.) Split(UNI/Blumhouse) 3,199 theaters (+161)  /$7.9M Fri/$11.5M Sat/$6.9M Sunday/3-day: $26.3M (-34%)/Total: $78 M/Wk 2

2.) A Dog’s Purpose(UNI/Amblin/Walden) 3,059 theaters   /$5.3M Fri (includes $455K previews)/$7.7m Sat/$5.4M Sun/3-day: $18.38m/Wk 1

3.) Hidden Figures* (Fox) 3,351 theaters (-65)/$3.75M Fri  /$6.3M Sat/$3.95M Sun/3-day: $14M (-11%)/Total: $104M/Wk 6

4.) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (SONY) 3,104 theaters  /$5.1M Fri (includes $1M previews)/$5.15M Sat/$3.6M Sun/3-day: $13.85m/Wk 1

5.) La La Land* (Lionsgate) 3,136 (+1,271) /$3.46M Fri /$5.3M Sat/$3.2M Sun/3-day:$12.05m (+43%)/Total:$106.5M/ Wk 8

6.) xXx: The Return Xander Cage (PAR/REV) 3,651 theaters  /$2.2M Fri/$3.8M Sat/$2.25M Sun/3-day: $8.25M (-59%)/Total: $33.4M/ Wk 2

7.)   Sing (ILL/UNI), 2,702 theaters (-491) /$1.3M Fri. /$3.05M Sat/$1.85M Sun/3-day cume: $6.2M (-31%)/Total: $257.4M/Wk 6

8.)   Rogue One  (DIS), 2,049 theaters  (-554)/$1.23M Fri. /$2.4m Sat/$1.48M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.1M (-29%)/Total: $520M/Wk 7

9.) Monster Trucks (PAR) 2,496 theaters (-623)/ $784K Fri. /$2M Sat/ $1.3M Sun/3-day: $4.1M (-42%)/ Total:$28.1M / Wk 3

10.) Gold (TWC) 2,166 theaters   /$1.1M Fri (includes $125K in previews)/$1.4M Sat/$912K Sun/3-day: $3.47M/Wk 1

Notables:

The Founder  (TWC) 1,115 theaters  /$696K Fri  /$1.1m Sat/$816k Sun/3-day: $2.67M (-21%) /Total: $7.5M/Wk 2

Raees  (IND) 265 theaters  /$513K Fri  /$766k Sat/$575k Sun/3-day: $2.85M  /Total: $2.4M/Wk 1 (Wed. bow)

Lion*  (TWC) 575 theaters  (0) /$606K Fri /$1M Sat./$732k Sun/3-day: $2.38M (+35%)/Total: $19.7M/Wk 10

Manchester by the Sea*  (AMZ/RSA) 1,168 theaters  (+625) /$525K Fri/$934K Sat/$566K Sun/3-day: $2M (+111%)/Total: $41.5M/Wk 11

Arrival* (Par) 1,221 theaters (+1,041)/$390k Fri/$694K Sat/$386K Sun/3-day: $1.47M (+357%)/Total: $97.3M/Wk 12

Moonlight*  (A24) 1,104 theaters  (+615) /$383K Fri/$633K Sat/$411K Sun/3-day: $1.427M (+140%)/Total: $17.6M/Wk 15

 Fences* (Par) 880 theaters (+187)/$376K Fri /$665K Sat/$369K Sun/3-day: $1.41M (+16%)/Total: $50.8M/Wk 7

Hacksaw Ridge* (LG) 502 theaters (+377)/$108k Fri/$193K Sat/$114K Sun  /3-day: $415k (+431%)/Total: $65.9M/Wk 13

The Salesman  (CMG), 3 theaters  /$19K Fri. /$28K Sat/$21K Sun/PTA: $22,5k/3-day:$68K / Wk 1

*Oscar best picture nominee

********************

Box office for weekend of Jan. 27-29 based off Saturday AM estimates—-chart being updated with Sunday figures.

1.) Split(UNI/Blumhouse) 3,199 theaters (+161)  /$7.9M Fri (-46%) /3-day: $25.3M (-37%)/Total: $77M/Wk 2

2.) A Dog’s Purpose(UNI/Amblin/Walden) 3,059 theaters   /$5.2M Fri /3-day: $18.3m/Wk 1

3.) Hidden Figures (Fox) 3,351 theaters (-65)/$3.7M Fri (-14%)  /3-day: $13.8M(-12%)/Total: $103.8M/Wk 6

4.) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (SONY) 3,104 theaters  /$5M Fri /3-day: $12.4m/Wk 1

5.) La La Land (Lionsgate) 3,136 (+1,271) /$3.4M Fri (+42%)/3-day: $11.8m (+40%)/Total:$106.2M/ Wk 8

6.) xXx: The Return Xander Cage (PAR/REV) 3,651 theaters  /$2.2M Fri (-69%) /3-day: $7.6M (-62%)/Total: $32.8M/ Wk 2

7.)   Sing (ILL/UNI), 2,702 theaters (-491) /$1.3M Fri.(-28%)  /3-day cume: $6.4M (-29%)/Total: $257.6M/Wk 6

8.)   Rogue One  (DIS), 2,049 theaters  (-554)/$1.2M Fri. (-29%)/ 3-day cume: $5.3M (-26%)/Total: $520.2M/Wk 7

9.) Monster Trucks (PAR) 2,496 theaters (-623)/ $781K Fri. (-44%)/ 3-day: $4M (-43%)/ Total:$28M / Wk 3

10.) Gold (TWC) 2,166 theaters   /$1.1M Fri /3-day: $3.5M/Wk 1

Notables:

The Founder  (TWC) 1,115 theaters  /$703K Fri (-30%) /3-day: $2.5M (-26%) /Total: $7.3M/Wk 2

Lion  (TWC) 575 theaters  (0) /$606K Fri (+31%) /3-day: $2.38M (+40%)/Total: $19.7M/Wk 10

Manchester by the Sea  (AMZ/RSA) 1,168 theaters  (+625) /$521K Fri (+113%) /3-day: $1.9M (+111%)/Total: $41.4M/Wk 11

 Fences (Par) 880 theaters (+187)/$375 Fri (+12%)  /3-day: $1.4M (+17%)/Total: $50.8M/Wk 7

Arrival (Par) 1,221 theaters (+1,041)/$390k Fri (+353%)  /3-day: $1.3M (+333%)/Total: $97.1M/Wk 12

Moonlight  (A24) 1,104 theaters  (+615) /$384K Fri (+137%) /3-day: $1.28M (+116%)/Total: $17.5M/Wk 15

Hacksaw Ridge (LG) 502 theaters (+377)/$106k Fri (+405%)  /3-day: $384k (+392%)/Total: $65.9M/Wk 13

The Salesman  (CMG), 3 theaters  /$19K Fri. /PTA: $19,9k/3-day:$59,8K / Wk 1

2ND UPDATE, Friday noon: Universal/Blumhouse’s Split isn’t going anywhere. It’s currently expected to stay in the No. 1 spot per industry matinees with a $7 million-plus Friday and a second weekend between $22M-$24M. On the high end, by Sunday, that will take the M. Night Shyamalan movie’s cume to $75.7M. Overall, that’s a 43% decline, which is not only remarkable for a genre film but bests the 55% of the director’s previous Uni/Blumhouse title The Visit. As we mentioned last weekend, Shyamalan has a loyal fanbase that can be counted upon theatrically.

High five here for actor James McAvoy, who is seeing a high box office cume here for starring in an original piece of IP. Outside three X-Men movies — Days Of Future Past, Apocalypse, and First Class — and Wanted, which is based on a comic book, Split is a top-grosser for the actor.

Universal/Amblin/Walden’s new entry, the embattled A Dog’s Purposewill land in second with $17M-$18M off a $5M-$5.5M. As we saw heading into the weekend, Uni is the big winner here with the No. 1 and 2 titles of the weekend.

Sony/Screen Gems’ Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, despite its hefty $1M Thursday night, is looking at $5.5M today with a $15M weekend. Essentially, like an average genre pic, it’s frontloaded. The franchise is crossing the $1B worldwide threshold, and will stand behind Alien ($1.4 billion worldwide), Twilight ($3.3 billion) and Hunger Games ($2.96 billion) in female-led franchises worldwide

20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures is racing toward $100M and will land in the top 5 with $12M-$13M in its sixth weekend after a $3.5M Friday. Pic counts three Oscar noms including Best Picture. Lionsgate/Summit’s Oscar wonder La La Land at 3,136 locations is looking at $11M-$12M as it also clicks past $100M this weekend off its 14 Oscar nom dance card. Worldwide, the Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling original musical is twirling past $200M.

The Weinstein Company’s Gold further down the charts is estimated to gross $1M-$1.5M today for a $4M weekend.

PREVIOUS, Friday 7 AM: Sony/Screen Gems’ Resident Evil: The Final Chapter soared in Thursday night previews, taking in $1 million and easily beating Universal/Amblin/Walden Media’s A Dog’s Purpose, which drew $455K last night. A Dog’s Purpose played at 2,255 venues from showtimes that started at 6 PM, while Resident Evil began its shows at 7 PM at 2,464 theaters.

Granted, a genre movie is always going to pull in more fanboys than a family film on its first night, especially at this time of year when there aren’t that many schools off.

Last time around, Resident Evil: Retribution, released in September 2012, drew $665K from midnight shows before opening to a $8.3M Friday and a $21M weekend. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter‘s Thursday night isn’t that far from xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage which made $1.2M on its first night before posting a $7.1M Friday and $20M weekend. Final Chapter cost $40M before P&A, and the final film already owns the biggest gross for the franchise in Japan with $35M. By the end of the weekend, Sony expects Final Chapter‘s worldwide B.O. to stand at $70M.

By comparison, one of the last dog movies — 2015’s Max, from Warner Bros/MGM — took in $500K on its preview night before a $4.3M first day, and $12.1M opening weekend. Given the low gross for A Dog’s Purpose last night, we need to consider that a movie like this will surge more from matinees than nightly showtimes. By comparison, A Dog’s Purpose beat the $175K preview cash of Weinstein Co.’s Paddington, which was also a family January release two years ago. Paddington went on to make $4.65M on Friday and a weekend of $18.96M.

A Dog’s Purpose has been embroiled in controversy over the last week after an on-set video surfaced  showing a German Shepherd who was struggling to perform in artificial waves. This spurred an outcry from not only animal rights groups but also people connected to the film, with producer Gavin Palone and A Dog’s Purpose author W. Bruce Cameron assuring that the dog was safe and in good health. In the wake of the PR nightmare, tracking for A Dog’s Purpose has stalled, with projections becoming a wild card. Some believe it will be No. 1 this weekend with an opening north of $18M, while others think Uni/Blumhouse’s Split should hold No. 1 with roughly $18M-$20M. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is still expected to file in the mid-teens despite its great Thursday night.

Split has had a great week with solid weekdays. The M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller was up 2% on Thursday over Wednesday with an estimated $2.5M at 3,038 venues, taking its first week’s cume to $51.7M. 20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures was second with $1.55M at 3,416 locations; its total by Sunday will be within reach of $100M.

The Weinstein Company has the Matthew McConaughey adventure drama Gold this weekend which is expected to bring in $4M-$5M. The pic directed by Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan drew $125K at 1,500 locations last night.

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