The weekend box office kicked off with a pair of triumphant returns. After 15 years away from the xXx franchise and five Fast & Furious movies in-between, Vin Diesel made his return to the role of Xander Cage for the appropriately titled revival xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Ice Cube took over the titular role in xXx: State of the Union, but now Diesel has re-assumed the position of franchise lead.
Veteran director M. Night Shyamalan, however, has made a different kind of return – a return to form. Split, starring James McAvoy in multiple roles as a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder, is a hit with critics after a string of mostly disappointing efforts (from The Village to After Earth). If his last directorial effort, The Visit, was a step in the right direction, then Split could be considered the director’s biggest triumph in a decade – and the box office is taking notice.
According to Deadline, Split took in an estimated $14.6 million at the U.S. box office on Friday, including $2 million in Thursday sales. That number crushes xXx: Return of Xander Cage’s estimated $7.1 million Friday total. Split is projected to hit up to $34.1 million over the course of the weekend, compared to a projected $19.1 million for xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
The early box office returns are a huge success for Split and a disappointment for Return of Xander Cage, relative to the number of theaters that screened the two movies. Split played in 3,058 theaters, compared to 3,561 for xXx. Rounding out the projected top-five movies for the weekend are Hidden Figures ($16.8 million), Sing ($8.6 million), and La La Land ($8.3 million).
Considering that Split cost only $10 million to make, it is already a massive success for Shyamalan and Blumhouse Productions. Forbes is projecting an even bigger weekend with about $39 million, which would make Split the biggest opening ever for an original feature from Blumhouse. Although Shyamalan has had his share of box office disappointments with more expensive movies, he appears to have hit his stride in recent years with low-budget productions like Split, which relies more on relentless suspense and McAvoy’s tour de force performance than special effects or pricey set-pieces.
While Split is off to a fantastic start in its own right, the same can’t be said for xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Diesel’s name value and familiarity in the franchise was expected to successfully revive the franchise by moving a lot of tickets. But a $19.1 million opening weekend on a budget of $85 million, and a resounding defeat at the box office at the hands of Split despite playing in 503 more theaters, has to be a concern for Paramount Pictures. The weekend numbers add up to two very different results for two very different productions.