Box office hits and misses: M. Night Shyamalan scares up an impressive weekend

The Visit M Night Shyamalan
It was a particularly creepy weekend at the box office, with two scary thrillers making successful debuts. Despite quite a bit of positive buzz going into the weekend, though, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit ended up finishing a close second to stalker drama The Perfect Guy.

The two films’ opening weekends were separated by just over $1 million, with director David M. Rosenthal’s The Perfect Guy earning $26.7 million over its three-day premiere and Shyamalan’s The Visit raking in $25.69 million. While the two films earned similar numbers, however, they couldn’t be farther apart from a critical standpoint.

Directed by Rosenthal and starring Sanaa Lathan (AVP: Alien vs. Predator), Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell), and Morris Chestnut (The Best Man Holiday), The Perfect Guy follows a Washington lobbyist (Lathan) whose relationship with a charming stranger (Ealy) goes sour when she discovers he’s a psychopath with an affinity for violence. The film’s evil-boyfriend premise failed to win over critics, and The Perfect Guy currently has a mere 31% approval rating on review aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com.

On the flip side, Shyamalan’s low-budget film about a pair of kids whose visit with their grandparents reveals terrifying (and possibly deadly) secrets about their relatives is being widely regarded as a triumphant return to form for the much-maligned filmmaker. The film features a relatively unknown cast, and has received rave reviews from critics — resulting in a 64% RottenTomatoes.com approval rating as of Monday morning.

With both The Perfect Guy and The Visit made on extremely low budgets ($12 million and $5 million, respectively), the two films are turning a tidy profit already and likely making their studios, cast, and creative teams quite happy.

The weekend’s third-place finisher was the religious-themed War Room, which dropped out of the top spot after two surprisingly successful weekends. The film earned $7.4 million in its third weekend in theaters and continued to reap rewards from its focused, faith-based subject matter to the tune of a $39.1 million return so far on a $3 million budget.

Robert Redford and Nick Nolte’s outdoor adventure-comedy A Walk in the Woods took fourth place for the weekend with $4.7 million, and it was closely followed by Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which added another $4.15 million domestically to its already impressive $612.9 million worldwide earnings so far. Director F. Gary Gray’s acclaimed N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton finished just behind Rogue Nation with $4.09 million in U.S. theaters.

Also earning a spot among the weekend’s top ten films was Owen Wilson’s overseas drama No Escape ($2.87 million) and franchise reboot The Transporter Refueled ($2.7 million), the latter of which has failed to generate the sort of excitement (or more importantly, box-office returns) likely to spawn a sequel at this point.

The two aforementioned films were followed by 90 Minutes in Heaven, a religious-themed drama starring Kate Bosworth and Hayden Christensen. The film’s $2.16 million opening weekend was good enough for ninth place on the weekend, but it failed to generate the sort of buzz that previously propelled the similarly themed War Room to a successful run.

Tenth on the list of the weekend’s highest-grossing films was the Spanish-language animated feature Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos, which dropped off significantly after a huge opening weekend but still earned another $1.9 million, bringing its total haul to just over $6.6 million so far.

The upcoming weekend features the release of several films that have been earning lots of praise in early screenings. First and foremost is Johnny Depp’s potentially Oscar-friendly turn as gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass, which will be competing for movie-lovers’ attention with the IMAX-friendly Everest, which is also generating some early Oscar buzz. Also premiering this upcoming weekend is Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to last year’s surprisingly successful post-apocalyptic adventure The Maze Runner, as well as the zombie horror-comedy Cooties, and the gritty, critically praised drug-war drama Sicario.

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