M. Night Shyamalan had to be smiling Sunday after his film “The Visit” took in $25.6 million at the box office this weekend to outstrip projections and give the director his first hit since “Signs” 13 years ago.
But there were likely bigger smiles at Sony’s Screen Gems, which released “The Perfect Guy” starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut. The sexy thriller one-upped Shyamalan with a slick $26.7 opening that topped analysts’ predictions by an even wider margin and gave the studio consecutive weekend box-office wins, pushing last week’s No. 1 film, the faith-based “War Room,” which was distributed by Sony label Affirm Films to third.
Both “The Perfect Guy” and “The Visit” not only exceeded pre-release tracking, which had the PG-rated films debuting in the high-teen millions, they’ll both turn nifty profits for their studios.
“The Perfect Guy,” directed by David M. Rosenthal, written by Alan B. McElroy and Tyger Williams, and co-produced by Lathan, more than doubled its $12 million production budget in the first three days of release.
The victory by “The Perfect Guy” was particularly impressive since the stalker tale was in 2,221 theaters, considerably fewer than the 3,069 locations screening “The Visit,” averaging $12,002 per location to the horror film’s $8,370.
Universal’s “The Visit,” which was also bankrolled and scripted by Shyamalan, took in more than five times its lean $5 million budget, the handiwork of low-budget horror king Jason Blum, who produced. It also managed to score the year’s best debut by a horror movie.
That’s a major turnaround for Shyamalan, the “Sixth Sense” director whose last two films, “After Earth” and “The Last Airbender,” were costly box-office misfires.
The weekend’s other wide release “90 Minutes in Heaven” finished ninth with $2.2 million from just 878 theaters for Samuel Goldwyn Films. It couldn’t have helped the drama starring Kate Bosworth and Hayden Christensen that it was sharing the attention of the Christian moviegoers it targeted with the over-achieving “War Room,” which held very well.
Alex Kendrick’s $3 million indie “War Room” upped its domestic total to nearly $40 million with an $8 million third weekend, falling just 15 percent from last weekend.
The Robert Redford comedy “A Walk in the Woods” was fourth with $4.7 million in its second week for Broad Green Pictures, just ahead of Tom Cruise‘s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” with $4.3 million in its seventh week for Paramount.
“The Perfect Guy” received an “A-” CinemaScore from its audience, which skewed female (70 percent) and older (58 percent over 25). The marketing campaign, the first under the Screen Gems label for worldwide marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein, was highlighted by a BET Awards takeover, and it connected. Sony didn’t provide the ethnic breakdown, but the primarily African-American cast is believed to have drawn a crowd that was nearly 60 percent black.
“We were really pleased with how ‘The Perfect Guy’ performed in just about every area that we rolled it out in,” Sony’s distribution chief Rory Bruer, told TheWrap, adding that he wasn’t sweating it when “The Visit” made it close on Saturday. “At that point, we just had a great feeling about our film’s performance, but it’s great to be No. 1.”
The studio scored with another movie targeting African-Americans, “No Good Deed,” which opened to $24.2 million on this weekend last year.
“The Visit” nearly gave Universal, which has been on a record-breaking run in 2015, its seventh No. 1 film of the year. It took in $10.6 million, a little more than the $10.4 million than “The Perfect Guy” grossed Saturday to make it close.
Blum’s influence on Shyamalan and “The Visit” was apparent beyond the budget. The audience for “The Visit” was 60 percent female and 48 percent under the age of 21, numbers more in line with those of Blum’s micro-budget chillers than the more mainstream fare Shyamalan is typically associated with.
On the specialty front, IFC Films’ R-rated comedy starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie, “Sleeping With Other People,” posted an impressive weekend gross of $103,125 from five theaters for a per-location average of $20,625.
Overall, the North American box office was up 17 percent from the comparable weekend last year. For the year it’s roughly six percent ahead of 2014, and has pulled even with 2013, the highest-grossing year ever.
The top ten, from Rentrak: