Joe Lederer/Universal
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January 29, 2017 at 01:48 PM EST

All dogs do go to heaven — or at least to the top of the box office in the wake of major controversy.

Despite a heavily ballyhooed promotional cycle leading up to the film’s wide release — including deflecting negative publicity after an on-set production video showing a trainer apparently forcing a German Shepherd into a pool of churning water while filming a scene surfaced — audiences greeted A Dog’s Purpose with tails wagging, launching the film to an estimated $18.4 million from 3,059 locations, according to box office data from comScore.

On top of pushing the film to a solid debut, polled moviegoers gave the film an A on CinemaScore, easily besting the week’s other new wide releases Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (B) and Gold (B-).

A Dog’s Purpose couldn’t dethrone reigning champion Split, however, as the M. Night Shyamalan thriller again defies expectations, shedding a slight 34 percent for an estimated sophomore weekend total of $26.3 million despite genre trends suggesting it would fall somewhere in the 50-60 percent range.

Trailing A Dog’s Purpose at No. 3 is three-time Oscar-nominated holdover Hidden Figures, which crosses the $100 million mark with an estimated $14 million weekend haul after four weeks in wide release. Since expanding nationwide Jan. 6, the film has yet to leave the domestic top three, peaking at No. 1 for two consecutive weeks earlier this month. Its North American total currently stands at $104 million.

At No. 4, the last film in the internationally driven Resident Evil film franchise notches a new series low with its final bow in theaters, grossing an estimated $13.9 million from Friday to Sunday — around $3 million less than the original film’s opening number in 2002.

After an almost five-year gap between pictures, Resident Evil‘s sixth outing, again fronted by action heroine Milla Jovovich on a $40 million budget, should still balloon the action-horror collective’s worldwide haul past the $1 billion mark in the coming days, as its overall global cumulative stands at $78.4 million and counting — $64.5 million of which came from international territories.

Rounding out the top five is current best picture frontrunner La La Land, which widened its theatrical scope by 1,271 locations after scoring a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations this week. The Damien Chazelle-directed musical takes in another $12 million from 3,136 theaters, enough to bring its total to $106.5 million in the U.S. and Canada and $223.5 million globally.

Elsewhere, the Weinstein Company’s Gold opens to a soft estimated $3.5 million from 2,166 theaters, averaging $1,602 per location. The Matthew McConaughey-fronted adventure flick marks the third underwhelming live-action movie in the Oscar winner’s recent career, after his Sea of Trees debuted to boos at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and the historical drama Free State of Jones took in a muted $20.8 million in June.

On the specialty front, Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award-nominated foreign film The Salesman, which had its world premiere at Cannes in 2016, takes in an impressive estimated $71,071 at three locations in limited release. The Iranian director made headlines this weekend after unconfirmed reports suggested President Donald Trump’s heavily criticized immigration ban would prohibit him from attending the upcoming Oscar ceremony.

Overall box office is about even with the same frame last year, down a mere 0.2 percent. Check out the Jan. 27-29 box office estimates below.

1. Split – $26.3 million
2. A Dog’s Purpose – $18.4 million
3. Hidden Figures – $14 million
4. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – $13.9 million
5. La La Land – $12 million
6. xXx: Return of Xander Cage – $8.3 million
7. Sing – $6.2 million
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $5.1 million
9. Monster Trucks – $4.1 million
10. Gold – $3.5 million

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