Box-Office Preview: 'Split,' 'xXx: Xander Cage' to Lead Inauguration Weekend

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures; Courtesy of Universal Pictures
'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage' (left), 'Split'

Prospects are iffy for Michael Keaton's 'The Founder' and Christian crime dramedy 'The Resurrection of Gavin Stone'; expect 'Hidden Figures' and 'La La Land' to remain strong, while specialty film '20th Century Women' makes a major push on the eve of Oscar nominations.

If prerelease tracking is accurate, Inauguration Weekend could see a close battle between M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Vin Diesel's extreme action extravaganza xXx: The Return of Xander Cage for the No. 1 spot at the North American box office.

Split, starring James McAvoy as a kidnapper with 24 different personalities, is projected to gross $23 million or more, thanks to a teen-friendly PG-13 rating. Jason Blum's Blumhouse and Universal partnered on the film, which begins rolling out Thursday night before playing Friday in a total of 3,015 theaters.

Shyamalan made the film for less than $10 million and self-financed it in order to retain creative control, similar to 2015's The Visit. Universal is being more conservative and suggesting a domestic debut in the high-teen million to $20 million range (it opens day-and-date in 21 foreign markets).

That's the same range Paramount and Revolution Studios are predicting for Xander Cage, the third installment in the long-dormant franchise. Directed by D.J. Caruso, the $85 million film sees Diesel's character, an extreme athlete turned government operative, come out of self-imposed exile to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora's Box.

Diesel sat out the last installment, XXX: State of the Union, which debuted to $12.7 million in April 2005. The first film, XXX, opened to a rousing $44.5 million in August 2002 and starred Diesel opposite Samuel L. Jackson. In the latest rendition, Diesel stars opposite Jackson and franchise newcomers Donnie Yen and Kris Wu of China and India's Deepika Padukone, among others.

The movie is set to play in approximately 3,600 theaters in North America, including Imax locations. Xander Cage opens in 53 foreign markets after earning a stellar $4.2 million in India last weekend, although it won't land in China until Feb. 10.

Prospects aren't decidedly iffy for the weekend's other new offerings, Michael Keaton's The Founder and Christian dramedy The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

The Founder, a biopic about McDonald's impresario Ray Kroc, is opening in roughly 1,100 theaters and is tracking to gross $2 million to $3 million. The Weinstein Co., which is distributing the FilmNation movie in the U.S., is hopeful that the pic will nab Oscar nominations on Jan. 24 following an awards qualifying run in December. The Founder earned generally strong reviews and has an 83 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

From Pure Entertainment and WWE Studio's, Gavin Stone is projected to open in the $1 million range from 1,000 theaters. (The movie is being distributed by BH Tilt, Blumhouse's releasing label.) The faith-based film stars Brett Dalton as a washed-up child star who returns to his hometown, where he pretends to be a Christian in order to land the role of Jesus in a play being produced by a nearby megachurch.

Gavin Stone and The Founder open one week after a trio of movies bombed at the box office: Monster Trucks, Martin Scorsese's Silence and Ben Affleck's Live by Night.

Among holdovers, Hidden Figures — which has taken the box-office crown the past two weekends — should continue to impress on the eve of Oscar nominations. Ditto for awards darling La La Land. Hidden Figures has grossed a total of $64 million through Wednesday, while La La Land's domestic cume is $79 million.

At the specialty box office, A24 and Annapurna Pictures' awards hopeful 20th Century Women is making a major push, upping its theater count from 20 locations to more than 600.

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