Another Twist Ending for Shyamalan's Superhero Trilogy

Theaters showing 'Glass' were only half full (or half empty, depending on your perspective).

Samuel L Jackson Glass
Universal Pictures

Well, Glass sure didn’t shatter any box office records. The latest from M. Night Shyamalan is the closing chapter of a trilogy begun back in 2000 with Unbreakable. Fans of that relatively realistic superhero tale have been waiting almost two full decades for the promised follow-up. And the success of Split two years ago, combined with the buzz surrounding its surprising revelation that it’s an Unbreakable spinoff, signaled that a true Unbreakable sequel that’d also be a direct sequel to Split might be a big deal. Unfortunately, moviegoers didn’t see it that way.

According to Box Office Mojo, Glass drew an estimated 4.6 million people in North America during its opening weekend, enough to place at the top of the domestic box office chart, and by most measurements, it’s a worthy debut. The movie sold about as many tickets in its first three days as Split did — the previous installment brought in 4.5 million people during its opening, which similarly occurred in mid-January. And it wasn’t too far behind Unbreakable‘s kickoff with 5.6 million people 19 years ago. That Glass only reportedly cost around $20 million compared to Unbreakable‘s $75 million is also a plus.

Still, Glass should have performed much better. The anticipation seemed higher with the third film in what is apparently called the “Eastrail 177 Trilogy.” Moviegoers who went to see Split that first weekend didn’t even know it was part of a series. With Glass, the assumption would be that Split not only did well enough theatrically and on home video to spark interest in the next installment but that fans of Split would go back and watch Unbreakable (again or for the first time) and become even more excited to see the stories of these two movies continue and culminate in Glass.

The industry sure saw it that way, and box office pundits followed suit. Back in November, Box Office Pro shared a prediction based on positive tracking that Glass would open to the equivalent of 7.6 million tickets being sold ($67 million). Since then, buzz on the box office for the movie has reached even higher, with attendance being guessed upwards of 8.5 million, at least with the inclusion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Last week, however, Box Office Pro did lower its forecast to the equivalent of 5.8 million tickets ($51.5 million) for the first three days and 6.7 million ($59.4 million) for the four-day weekend.

Not only is the $40.3 million debut for Glass much lower than even the tempered expectations, but globally Shyamalan fell short of Deadline’s claim that the movie could fall in the $105 million-$120 million range worldwide through Monday. As of today, Box Office Mojo is showing a global total through Sunday of only $89 million, which is unlikely to add enough on the fourth day, even with some people off from work or school to honor MLK. Is that all there is for fans of the filmmaker and his take on the superhero genre?

How did Glass fall so short in its opening weekend? We could look at the reviews for the movie, which are mostly negative with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 36%. Normally that wouldn’t matter to fans of a franchise, but it’s a huge drop from Unbreakable (69% on RT) and especially Split (76% on RT), indicating that, without much room for argument, the latest is at least a lesser installment. Many fans anticipating Glass might have shrugged off its theatrical release and now plan to just wait for video. Meanwhile, those who did flock to the film on opening night showed their disappointment by giving it a so-so ‘B’ grade via Cinemascore polling., which isn’t good for word of mouth. Unbreakable was initially seen as much worse, though, earning a ‘C’ grade; Split received a ‘B+.’

Expectations were clearly higher for Hollywood and the press than they were for moviegoers, but Universal (and international partner Disney) have no reason to be upset with the outcome. Certainly a “January blockbuster,” as some were calling it prematurely, would have been better, but the movie will be somewhat profitable for the studios. And it’s not like they had hopes for a hit that would lead to more sequels, at least none from Shyamalan (and he probably has a deal where Universal can’t go and make direct-to-video Shamrock Society sequels or whatever). This is the end, with little more than a whimper.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Glass – 4.6 million (4.6 million)
2. The Upside – 1.7 million (4.9 million)
3. Aquaman – 1.2 million (34.4 million)
4. Dragon Ball Super: Broly – 1.1 million (2.3 million)
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – 0.9 million (18 million)
6. A Dog’s Way Home – 0.8 million (2.4 million)
7. Escape Room – 0.64 million (4.6 million)
8. Mary Poppins Returns – 0.59 million (18 million)
9. Bumblebee – 0.54 million (13.1 million)
10. On the Basis of Sex – 0.4 million (1.9 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

Christopher began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called 'Read,' back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials.