M. Night Shyamalan is now looking at one of his bigger hits in quite some time with Split, in which James McAvoy plays a kidnapper with multiple personality disorder. According to Variety, Split is not only dominating xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which will come in with an approximate $20 million or so, but also outpace tracking for the compact thriller, which now has an approximate weekend total of $40.2 million.
For some context, Shyamalan’s last movie, The Visit, has an opening weekend of about $25 million and After Earth, which sported one-time box-office titan Will Smith, came in with about $30 million. The last Shyamalan movie to hit $40 million on opening weekend was The Last Airbender, a movie that had both a tremendous following coming in from the source material but also an outrageous budget of $150 million. Compare that to Split‘s gross thus far and keep in mind that Shyamalan and Blumhouse spent under $10 million to make Split. That would be the far more reasonable model of numerous, small-budget movies over a few titanic film with budgets that reach up into 9 figures, rearing its head once again. Mind you, The Visit made over $100 million off of a $5 million budget.
In third place would be Hidden Figures, Theodore Melfi‘s exuberant and quite excellent comedic, historical melodrama, which has had a rousing run at the box office over the last few weeks. Another historical melodrama, however, has not done very well. In fact, The Weinstein Company’s The Founder will likely not even make it into the top ten this weekend, which can be blamed largely on its completely botched marketing campaign and troubles with release dates. Right now, it’s looking likely that La La Land and Sing will continue their admirable box office runs to come in at 4th and 5th place, the former still feeding off its Golden Globes sweep and its presumed Oscar nominations. Split is not likely to enjoy any nominations in this coming year, but its success points to pragmatic, skilled production and smart, selective marketing, two elements that helped build the industry and are becoming scarcer by the day.