Dog’s Purpose, A: Lasse Hallstrom’s Controversial Feature?

Despite the TMZ videos and boycott threats, A Dog’s Purpose still managed to pull in family audiences, who apparently were not convinced of the significance of footage of a cowering German Shepherd being forced into rushing water.

The story of a dog who gets reincarnated, living through and playing “man’s best friend” to multiple masters, brought in $18.4 million in its opening weekend.

That’s consistent with the openings of other films for animal-lovers, such as “Eight Below” ($20.1 million) and “Dolphin Tale” ($19.1 million), neither one of which raised the ire of PETA.

Universal and Amblin partnered on “A Dog’s Purpose,” which has a $22 million production budget.

“It opened right in the sweet spot, if not on the higher end of expectations,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “The fact that the film has worked so well speaks directly to its resonating message. The controversy surrounding the protests generated by a highly edited video is hard to ignore. However, the box office shows that this film rises above that.”

A Dog's Purpose Dennis Quaid

He noted that even at multiplexes where there were protests, such as the Arclight in Los Angeles, the film did strong business. It’s a solid opening, one that suggests that the companies were successful in containing the bad publicity that threatened “A Dog’s Purpose’s” release.

After TMZ released the video, director Lasse Hallstrom, producer Gavin Polone, and cast members expressed their outrage. They placed most of the blame on the film’s second-unit production team or argued that the video was manipulated, while Universal, looking to contain the blowback, cancelled the film’s premiere. The protest threats and viral video did take a bite out of the grosses — tracking two weeks ago suggested the film would open to as much as $24 million.