Lasse Hallstrom’s A Dog’s Purpose came in behind expectations over the weekend with a debut of $18.3 million from 3,058 theaters at the North American box office after being dogged by controversy over a leaked video showing a canine in distress on the set of the film.
M. Night Shyamalan’s sleeper hit Split fell a scant 36 percent in its second weekend to $26.3 million for a domestic total of $78 million. The horror film easily stayed No. 1 for Blumhouse and Universal.
Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media partnered on A Dog’s Purpose, with Universal handling distribution and marketing. The filmmakers and production companies, along with producer Gavin Polone, have said the video was highly edited and dispute allegations of abuse.
While the film’s debut is a solid opening in terms of financials — it cost a net $22 million to make — it had been tracking to open in the $24 million range before the video was published by TMZ, prompting calls of a boycott from PETA. Box-office observers believe A Dog’s Purpose, rated PG, was hurt by the video, noting that major markets including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., under-indexed.
The film, appealing to pet lovers of all ages, earned an A CinemaScore, fueling hopes for strong word of mouth. In terms of other animal-themed live-action movies, A Dog’s Purpose opened not far behind 2006’s Eight Below ($20.2 million), the 2000 pic 102 Dalmatians ($19.9 million) and 2011’s Dolphin Tale ($19 million), not accounting for inflation. It opened ahead of 2002’s Snow Dogs ($17.8 million) and 2009’s Hotel for Dogs ($17 million). At the other end of the spectrum, box-office hit Marley and Me barked to a $36 million opening over Christmas 2008.
Lion has earned a total $19.8 million to date. Among other films landing a best picture nom, Manchester by the Sea (Amazon/Raodside) earned a pleasing $2 million from 1,168 theaters for a domestic total of $41.5 million, followed by Arrival (Paramount) with $1.5 million from 1,221 theaters for a total $97.3 million; Moonlight (A24) with $1.5 million from 1,104 theaters for a total $17 million; and Fences (Paramount) with $1.4 million from 808 theaters for a total $50.8 million.
At the specialty box office, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar nominated The Salesman scored the top location average of the weekend for any film when opening to $71,071 from three theaters for a location average of $23,690. The movie debuted in New York and Los Angeles just as the filmmaker said he wouldn’t attend the Oscar ceremony because of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.