This post-Labor Day weekend, normally a graveyard for box office, with rare major new films opening among late-August holdovers, Vin Diesel's "Riddick" posted a much bigger-than-usual gross. The top 10 took in around $63 million, low for most of the year but high for this weekend. Last year's total was only $46 million.
This continues the recent trend of business rising over last year, and brings the year-to-date increase to about 1%, building on a summer that turned around a weak 2013. This week's grosses were also aided by strong holdover showings of "The Butler" and "We're the Millers" as well as the unexpected strength of "Instructions Not Included," the Mexican comedy that doubled its screen count this weekend.
Sony brought back "This Is the End" in an attempt to get it to $100 million. It fell just short of the top 10, but its $2 million gross got it almost to $99 million, and they now look like the remaining dates could just about get to their goal.
1. Riddick (Universal) - Cinemascore: B: Criticwire: C+; Metacritic: 48
$18,700,000 in 3,107 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $; Cumulative: $18,700,000
Opening up on what is often the worst weekend of the year, Vin Diesel's third go at the character first introduced in the sleeper success "Pitch Black" (2000) did better than 3/4s of the business of the sequel "Chronicles of Riddick." That film though opened in prime June playtime in 2004. This gross, though not spectacular, ranks at the high end of post-Labor Day weekend's (last year's top gross was only $9 million, and "The Words," a new release in 2,800 theaters, took in under $5 million).
Diesel was one of the producers for this $38 million production, the third go-round with director/writer David Twohy. With him anchoring the "Fast & Furious" series, it makes sense for Universal to take a chance in extending this series, with overseas grosses added to the domestic total likely making this a profitable venture ultimately.
What comes next: Still likely not quite enough to keep the franchise going.
2. Lee Daniels' The Butler (Weinstein) Week 4 - Last weekend: #1
$8,900,000 (-40%) in theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,673;; Cumulative: $91,901,000
After three weeks at #1 (the first in Weinstein and previous Miramax history), Lee Daniels' film continues to thrive, and shows every sign of going much, much further before it is through. At this point it has become an event picture every bit as much as some of the equally big films showing with awards boosting their performance.