Universal’s “Split” doubled expectations at the box office this weekend, earning an estimated $40 million although box office analysts had projected a gross in the high-teens to low-$20 million range.
There are several reasons as to why the M. Night Shyamalan film did so well — one of them being that it’s a Shyamalan film. The director has consistently proven he is a thriller film guru, with credits including “The Sixth Sense” and 2015’s “The Visit.”
Partnered with horror movie production guru Jason Blum and his production company, Blumhouse Productions, audiences were right to expect a solid psychological thriller that has earned a Rotten Tomatoes score of 76 percent and a CinemaScore of B+.
Moreover, the star is James McAvoy, a big household name who has become a staple in the “X-Men” franchise. With a budget of $10 million, “Split” is a commercial and critical success.
See 5 reasons as to why the film performed so well below.
1. James McAvoy Is a Draw
McAvoy is a big name actor that can draw audiences to the movie theaters. For the past five years, he has become a household name for the “X-Men” franchise, in which he played the younger version of Professor Charles Xavier. The latest movie in the series, “Apocalypse,” grossed $543 million worldwide.
2. People Want to See M. Night Projects
Shyamalan is also a household name that people have come to associate with the best horror films out there. 2015’s “The Visit” was a critical and commercial success, having earned $98 million worldwide after opening to a stellar $25.4 million. The movie holds a score of 64 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Shyamalan’s other credits include “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” “The Village” and “After Earth.”
“Horror movies are almost always a draw, but when you put a notable director and a huge star in James McAvoy together, it’s box office alchemy,” senior analyst at comScore, Paul Dergarabedian, told TheWrap.
3. Perfect Release Date
“Split” opened on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, an event that sparked women’s marches all over the world. In Los Angeles, the LAPD estimated that more than 100,000 attended, although organizers reported approximately 750,000, which far exceeded organizers’ expectations for 150,000 protesters.
Evidently, “Split” offered entertainment for those wanting to escape reality. Shyalaman offers films in which audiences can get lost and forget about everything else that’s going on in their lives using twists and surprises that no one ever sees coming (see Shyamalan’s best twists ranked here.)
Also, the film opened on a weekend that didn’t offer much competition except for Vin Diesel’s “xXx: Return of Xander Cage.” But “Split” blew the action sequel out of the water by about $20 million.
4. Great Marketing
Great billboards drew in audiences, with the trailers and the film’s marketing campaign that spoke perfectly to McAvoy and Shyamalan fans, giving them the perfect glimpse into what the movie was about. Moreover, Universal did word-of-mouth screenings last weekend in 24 locations (fitting, given that McAvoy’s character has 24 personalities in the film).
The film now has a “fresh” rating of 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and has a CinemaScore of B+, so obviously, word-of-mouth helped the film become a box office hit.
“A great trailer, a perfect release date that made its pure escapism irresistible, and a intriguing premise made this the first big movie released in 2017 to be a breakout hit!” added Dergarabedian.
5. The Blumhouse Model
Jason Blum, with his company Blumhouse Productions, has consistently shown that he is the king of horror, with successes like “Insidious,” “Sinister” and “The Purge.” Blum was a producer on “Split,” so audiences could count on a solid film given his credentials.
His model is to match name filmmakers with name actors and produce a film for a low budget — which is exactly what he did with “Split.” The film’s budget was around $10 million. And the film’s opening weekend showed that Shyamalan and McAvoy are a good combo.
“Who would’ve thought that some 17 or 18 years after ‘The Sixth Sense’ made M. Night Shyamalan a household name, that he would find a perfect partner with Jason Blum and Blumhouse productions?” said Dergarabedian.