'A Dog's Purpose' Box Office: Controversy Clouds Movie's Prospects

Joe Lederer/Universal
'A Dog's Purpose'

Tracking services have lowered their estimates for the film's opening this weekend following an outcry over a leaked video showing a dog in distress on set.

The controversy over the treatment of a German shepherd on the set of Lasse Hallstrom's A Dog's Purpose could ding the movie's box-office prospects this weekend.

On Monday, tracking services lowered their projections for the film's opening by several million dollars. A week ago, industry leader NRG had put the movie's debut at $24 million. Now, NRG is forecasting $21 million, according to sources with access to the survey. Box-office analysts are divided as to whether the controversy will hurt the movie.

Any opening north of $20 million should be enough to beat the weekend's other two new players, Screen Gems' Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Matthew McConaughey-starrer Gold.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for a boycott of A Dog's Purpose after TMZ published a video showing the dog being forced to perform in artificial rapids on the set of the film, which was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media. The filmmakers and production companies, along with producer Gavin Polone, have said the video was highly edited and dispute allegations of abuse.

"Obviously no studio wants such a negatively charged situation diluting the inherent message of their movie and becoming a major part of the conversation, but this is an occurrence that they could never have planned for or anticipated, so they just have to release the film and let the audience decide," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore.

Universal will open A Dog's Purpose, sporting a family-friendly PG-13 rating, in 3,050 theaters. The film, designed to appeal to pet lovers, is based on W. Bruce Cameron's book of the same name and follows a dog, voiced by Josh Gad, who is reincarnated again and again. Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Peggy Lipton and Pooch Hall star. 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, based on Capcom's popular video game series, is projected to gross in the low to mid-teen millions from more than 3,000 theaters. Final Chapter is the sixth installment in the franchise, which has grossed more than $1 billion to date.

Final Chapter expects to be a big player overseas, where it has already earned more than $35 million in Japan. Sony and Screen Gems expect it to finish the weekend with a foreign total of more than $70 million.

Gold, from The Weinstein Co., is tracking to open in the $5 million-$8 million range, a muted start considering its star wattage. Directed by Stephen Gaghan, the period crime-adventure movie is based on the true story of a mining scandal in the 1930s when a massive deposit of gold was found in Indonesia. It was originally set to open nationwide a month ago on Christmas Day, but was pushed back. Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell and Craig T. Nelson co-star.

Elsewhere, a flurry of films scoring top Oscar nominations will vie for attention, including frontrunner La La Land, which expands into roughly 3,000 theaters.