Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Weekend Box Office: M. Night Shyamalan twists again

Split (Photo: Universal Pictures)
Split (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Turns out America still likes M. Night Shyamalan. The reputation of the former next great hope of Hollywood fizzled out after a string of poorly received films and ill-conceived forays into effect-driven blockbuster fantasy, but now the low-budget thriller Split has proven to be his critical and commercial comeback. The film earned Shyamalan his best reviews in 15 years (since Signs, in other words), as well as one of the largest January opening weekends on record. Exceeding predictions, the movie opened at No. 1 with a $40.2 million box office debut. Given that the movie cost less to make than Shyamalan’s little-seen pre-Sixth Sense feature Wide Awake—the one where Rosie O’Donnell plays a nun—that means it’s already wildly profitable. It helps the thing is damn entertaining.

In bizarre callback to Shyamalan’s early 2000s heyday, the No. 2 slot went to xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage, with Vin Diesel belatedly reprising the title role of an extreme-sports super-spy. (The original xXx went neck-and-neck at the box office with—you guessed it—Signs.) The film made $20 million in American theaters, and is leading in more than half of the international markets where it opened, with especially strong showings in India and Russia.

Both films managed to unseat Hidden Figures, which has been the unlikely box-office champion for two weeks running. It dropped to the No. 3 spot, while still earning an enviable $16.3 million, bringing its domestic total to $84.2 million. The only other new (or new-ish) film to land in the top 10 besides Split and xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage was The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the businessman who made McDonald’s into one of the world’s largest restaurant chains. The film, which had a tiny awards-qualifying run in December, made $3.8 million to land at No. 9.


Last week’s No. 2, La La Land, ended up in fifth place with $8.3 million, having been passed by a far less well-received musical: the animated Sing, which came in fourth with $9 million. Meanwhile, sixth-place Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($7 million) crossed the billion-dollar mark worldwide, with more than half of that earned in the United States. In what has proven to be a bad month for Bostonians with broad shoulders and somewhat limited acting ranges, both Patriot’s Day and Live By Night have continued to underperform.

The former, which stars Mark Wahlberg as the most ludicrous composite character to ever witness every step of a real-life terrorist attack, made $6 million, dropping into eight place for its second week of wide release. This makes it the second consecutive collaboration (after Deepwater Horizon) between Wahlberg, director Peter Berg, and the market-researched interests of red-state America to try and fail to recapture the box office success of their earlier Lone Survivor. As of this weekend, the film has grossed about half of its $45 million budget and has few prospects overseas. Aiming for a very different kind of rah-rah populism, Live By Night—which stars writer-director Ben Affleck as a KKK-fighting ’30s mobster—plunged to No. 15 with $1.8 million, bringing its total up to $9.5 million. It cost $65 million to make.

But now, on to some truly sad news: Martin Scorsese’s difficult-but-well-worth-it Silence, one of The A.V. Club’s favorite films of 2016, has flopped in its belated wide expansion. The long-in-the-works passion project from one of this country’s greatest living filmmakers—which also happens to be the definitive religious statement of its most famous purveyor of Catholic themes—dropped to No. 21 as it doubled its theater count, earning only $1.2 million for a paltry total of $5.2 million. Go see while you can. Seriously. Even if the subject matter seems like it won’t be your bag, it’s a grown-up examination of the paradoxes of looking for personal and cosmic meaning in an unbalanced world—darker and funnier than one might expect, with a transcendent ending.

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