A Dog's Purpose has good box office opening despite controversy

2017-01-30 11:25

Los Angeles — Opening in theatres amid controversy over animal treatment on set and calls for a boycott, A Dog's Purpose still managed to earn $18.4m, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Tracking expectations had pegged the family film to open in the mid $20m range, but it had a healthy debut nonetheless for a movie that cost only $22m to produce.

Representatives of Universal Pictures, which distributed the Amblin-produced film starring Dennis Quaid, say the opening was in line with their hopes.

Audiences gave the film an "A'' CinemaScore, indicating that word of mouth should be positive going forward.

"It's a great start for what I think is going to be a long-term playout on the title," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution.

First place at the box office went again to M. Night Shyamalan's multiple personality thriller Split. It grossed $26.3m in its second weekend in theatres — a relatively minuscule 34% drop from its first weekend, which is nearly unheard of for a horror thriller.

Rounding out the top five were Hidden Figures in third with $14m, new opener Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in fourth with $13.9m, and La La Land in fifth place with $12.1m.

Damien Chazelle's candy coloured musical crossed the $100m mark domestically after earning 14 Oscar nominations that helped fuel its earnings.

But even with the newly anointed Oscar nominees and the sleeper hit of Split, many eyes were on A Dog's Purpose this weekend. 

On 18 January, TMZ released a video of a frightened dog from A Dog's Purpose that apparently was forced into rushing water during the making of the film. The footage quickly went viral. (Read more here)

PETA called for a boycott of the film, while the studio and filmmakers canceled its press junket and premiere but still proceeded with releasing the film in over 3 000 locations as planned.

Carpou acknowledged that the video, which he and the filmmakers have said is "highly edited," surfaced at "a very inopportune moment in the buildup to the release of our movie" and they knew that it would have some effect.

And yet, Carpou said, "It's very difficult to qualify what is a success for this film by trying to quantify negative result because of some controversy."

Other industry observers, like Dergarabedian, note that the video and the resulting media attention actually heightened awareness about the movie.

Dergarabedian also thinks that, even without the controversy, the weekend likely would have played out in the same way, with A Dog's Purpose taking second place to Split.

"It had an impact, we just don't know what the impact is," Dergarabedian said. "To have close to $20m is a pretty good showing. I really feel like we just don't know what the impact was. I think it's a fine result for the film."

Read more on:    a dog's purpose  |  box office  |  movies

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.