'Perfect Guy' elbows ahead of 'The Visit' with $26.7 million

Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:27pm EDT
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By Brent Lang

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Thriller "The Perfect Guy" narrowly beat out horror film "The Visit" for first place at the weekend box office, picking up a leading $26.7 million.

"The Visit," M. Night Shyamalan's return to the shock and chills genre that made famous with "The Sixth Sense," was close behind with a sterling $25.7 million. Going into the weekend both films were expected to pull in between $15 million and $17 million.

"The Perfect Guy" has more than doubled its $12 million budget in a single weekend, putting it on a path to profitability. The story of a successful lobbyist (Sanaa Lathan) who rebounds from a breakup with a Mr. Wrong (Michael Ealy), who turns out to have a dangerous side, was backed by Sony's ScreenGems' division.

The studio had a similar success on the same weekend last year when "No Good Deed," a thriller with Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson that debuted to $24.2 million.

"It's ideal timing, because there's not a lot of competition in the marketplace and you can really stand out with a slightly lower [ad] spend," said Josh Greenstein, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony.

In order to bring its audience while keeping costs at a minimum, the studio aggressively went after African-American audiences. It launched a BET Awards takeover for "The Perfect Guy" and also debuted a customized trailer to appear alongside "Straight Outta Compton" that was wordless save for Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell On You."

"We wanted to sell it as a sexy, taut thriller," said Greenstein.

"The Visit" arrives courtesy of Blumhouse, the micro-budget creator of "Sinister" and "Paranormal Activity, and cost a slender $5 million to produce. Universal distributed the film in 3,069 theaters. Its success represents a comeback for Shyamalan whose career was colder than one of those "Sixth Sense" dead people after "The Last Airbender," "Lady in the Water" and "After Earth" all flopped.   Continued...