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M. Night Shyamalan’s long-awaited return to form may have finally come, if early reception to his new film,”Split,” is any indication. The James McAvoy-led thriller debuted to a strong $2 million in Thursday night previews at 2,295 locations. It is projected to have an opening weekend of around $20 million against a budget of $10 million, though Universal is more conservative with a projection in the high-teens.

The Thursday yield blows by that of Shyamalan’s last film, “The Visit,” which raked in $1 million in previews when it was released in September 2015 and went on to gross $25 million in its opening weekend.  Produced by Blumhouse and premiered at Fantastic Fest last September, “Split” has received positive reviews with a 77 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Competing against “Split” this weekend is “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage,” which sees Vin Diesel return to the action series he helped start in 2002. The film also stars Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and Samuel L. Jackson and was directed by D. J. Caruso.

It is opening in 3,600 locations (including IMAX and 3D) and is estimated to earn from $18 million to $20 million this weekend, the studio predicts — though some trackers have it as high as $25 million. By comparison, the 2005 Diesel-less “xXx: State of the Union” grossed just $12.7 million domestically in its opening weekend. But “Xander Cage”‘s yield might be hampered by its 36 percent RT rating, which comes from reviews that feature some particularly scathing pull quotes.

Also out this week is The Weinstein Company’s biopic “The Founder,” which stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man who turned McDonald’s from a small California burger joint into a national franchise. Opening in 1,100 locations, a survey of tracking suggests the film will open higher than $3 million, which TheWrap has learned would be satisfactory to TWC.

The film also stars Nick Offerman, John Caroll Lynch, B.J. Novak, Patrick Wilson and Laura Dern. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 80 percent.

Fox’s “Hidden Figures” is expected to be a strong holdover in its third weekend at the box office as it is expected to gross another $18 million this weekend. Depending on how “Xander Cage” performs, the biopic could finish in second place behind “Split.” It opened to $22.8 million two weeks ago and grossed a stellar $26 million its second weekend (four-day estimate, counting the MLK Day holiday).

More to come…

January 20, 2017

‘Split’ Creeps to Strong $2 Million at Thursday Box Office

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