If last weekend was a whimper, this one is a sigh and a groan, and then a brief shimmering light of hope. Considering the normal lackluster of Labor Day box office, we didn't have high expectations. When we read that the top contender was a One Direction documentary (helmed by Morgan Spurlock) we grimaced, but weren't that surprised given that it's up against a box office of holdovers and considering the successes of the Justin Bieber and 'Hannah Montana' (pre-twerking Miley Cyrus) concert movies. We're more disappointed in the fact that Labor Day weekend is usually a great opportunity for a horror or thriller film to shine through ("The Possession," "Contagion," Rob Zombie's "Halloween," and more) that would have been neglected other weekends (e.g. last weekend's "You're Next"). Theoretically, "Getaway" could have followed suit, but not even a thronging tween/teen audience would buy an Ethan Hawke-Selena Gomez car heist movie (making Hawke miss a summer hit hat trick by one). Having gone to a Backsteet Boy concert or two (or three), we understand the appeal of a boy band and the rabidness of a female tween/teen/YA fanbase, but still, really? We were just about to add this weekend as another example on the list of "why we can't have nice things," but then we saw that the Mexican father-daughter tale "Instructions Not Included" not only made the top ten, but the top five for the weekend. Although the film has been getting mixed reviews (Variety described it as "a sporadically amusing but unduly protracted dramedy that slowly—very slowly—devolves into a shameless tearjerker during its third act), its weekend gross shows that the U.S. audience is at least partially interested in something beyond fan adulation and speeding-against-the-clock action.
Taking the top spot, Morgan Spurlock's "One Direction: This Is Us" made $17 million, making it the second largest Labor Day weekend opening of all time (after "Halloween," which made $30 million) and fourth ever for concert movies. Yes, Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock directed a documentary that wasn't about himself or one of his social experiments. Instead, he followed around One Direction, Simon Cowell's social experiment. This marks the biggest opening of Spurlock's career (or what Spurlock called a "docbuster"), beating out his previous best by a supersized margin ("Super Size Me" made $0.5 million its opening weekend) and grossing more in one weekend than the rest of his films in their entire runs combined ($12 million, with $11.5 from "Super Size Me"). In comparison to other recent music docs, "One Direction: This Is Us" did pretty well. For weekend gross, it beat out "Katy Perry: Part of Me" ($7.1 million) and "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" ($12.5 million). For box office ranking, it topped "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" (second with $29.5 million) and tied with "Michael Jackson's This Is It" (first with $23.2 million). With a production budget of $10 million, the movie has already nearly doubled its budget domestically and will be a boon to TriStar/Sony, whose other summer hits include "Grown Ups 2" and "This Is The End."
Slipping to second, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" made $14.7 million, nearing the domestic $75 million mark with a running total of $74 million. In turn, "We're The Millers" was bumped down to third and made $12.6 million. The weekend bumped the raunchy comedy over the domestic $100 million mark ($109.6 million), making it the sixth Jennifer Aniston to make over $100 million domestically. Thanks to 'The Mortal Instruments' and "The World's End" dropping down a few pegs, "Planes" had a slight pitch up to fourth place (from last weekend's fifth) and made $7.8 million.
In a very remarkable fifth, the Spanish-language father-daughter dramedy "Instructions Not Included" made $7.5 million. From director-actor Eugenio Derbez, one of Mexico's most recognizable TV actors/personalities (although you may also recognize him from "Jack and Jill"), "Instructions Not Included" opened in only 347 theaters, averaging an astounding $21,614 per theater ("One Direction: This Is Us" averaged $6,216 per theater). The film has already made back its estimated $5 million budget and then some.
"Elysium" floated up to sixth with $6.3 million and crossed the domestic $75 million mark, with a running total of $78.4 million. In a could-be symbolic seventh (we haven't read the books), "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" made $5.2 million. Nearing the end, "The World's End" fell four spots to eighth, suffered the largest percentage drop (46%), and made $4.8 million.
In a nearly non-existent ninth, "Getaway" made $4.5 million. Starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez (a movie duo that will be best remembered for out-there pub quiz questions), the PG-13 car heist/getaway movie was made for $18 million and will be lucky if it gets that back. In the summer that could have been "of Ethan Hawke" (with the surprise success of "The Purge" and the indie hit "Before Midnight"), it's a shame that this third film is such a low note. Marking the last Dark Castle Entertainment movie at Warner Bros., we bet they're glad to see it go. Watch out Universal, hope you'll have better luck with "The Loft" next year.
Sinking to the bottom spot on the board, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" came in tenth and made $4.4 million.
As for specialty box office, "Afternoon Delight" was a real delight (wink, nudge) and lead the pack of strong holdovers, with the third best per theater average of the weekend's entire box office. In the top indie spot, Jill Soloway's dramedy, starring Kathryn Hahn as a frustrated stay-at-home mom and Juno Temple as a helpful stripper, opened in 2 theaters and made $28,088, averaging $14,044 per theater. In second place and its third week, holdover Jerusha Hess' "Austenland" expanded from 23 to 52 theaters and $215,000, averaging $4,135 per theater. In third place and its fourth week, holdover Lake Bell's "In A World" expanded from 75 to 92 theaters and made $329,000, averaging $3,576 per theater. In fourth place and its second week, holdover Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" expanded from 7 to 749 theaters and made $2,446,000, averaging $3,266 per theater. In fifth place, Gilles Legrand's "You Will Be My Son," a French drama about family struggles on a vineyard, played in 6 theaters and made $19,231, averaging $3,205 per theater.