Split rules North America's box office

NEW YORK • Split, the latest thriller from M. Night Shyamalan and Blumhouse Productions, was the No. 1 movie in North America for the weekend.

Expertly marketed by Universal Pictures, which leaned on lower-cost digital promotions, Split sold an estimated US$40.2 million (S$57 million) in tickets, far surpassing pre-release analyst expectations.

The film about a man with split personalities cost just US$9 million to make, with Shyamalan personally footing the bill.

Arriving as a distant second was xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage (Paramount), which managed roughly US$20 million - an underwhelming start for a film that cost at least US$125 million to make and market and was designed to revive an action series that had been dormant for 12 years.

Instead, the movie, starring Vin Diesel, who tried to rally his 101 million Facebook followers, will likely become more evidence that Americans have little appetite for movie franchises that have been on ice for more than a few years. (See: Independence Day: Resurgence and Zoolander 2, both last year.)

Paramount, which offset its financial risk by bringing in partners, said the film co-starring Donnie Yen collected an additional US$50.5 million in partial release overseas and called it "the No. 1 movie in the world".

Rounding out the top three, Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox) - about a group of African-American women working at Nasa - continued to ride strong word-of-mouth, taking in roughly US$16.3 million, for a five-week domestic total of US$84.2 million, according to comScore, which compiles ticketing data.

Nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced today and among the movies counting on awards attention to find a bigger audience is Moonlight. Seen as a leading contender for Best Picture, this euphorically reviewed drama about a young black man in Miami started strong, but has stalled. It has taken in about US$15.8 million over 14 weeks.

For Silence, Martin Scorsese and Paramount desperately need the academy to help their slow-burning drama about two missionaries in Japan from becoming a financial washout. Costing US$50 million to make, Silence, a passion project for Scorsese as director, has collected US$5.2 million since its arrival on Dec 23.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Split rules North America's box office'. Print Edition | Subscribe