WINNER OF THE WEEK: Vin Diesel. Sure, Riddick opened at the low end of expectations, at just an estimated $18.7 million, well below the $24.3 million debut of The Chronicles of Riddick in 2004. Still, the movie opened at Number One (albeit without any new wide-release competition). Besides, $18.7 million is a respectable number given the nine-year gap since Chronicles, which squandered much of the franchise's good will (its total take was just $57.8 million). Plus, you have to give Diesel credit for using his Fast & Furious clout to get made what was apparently a labor of love. It doesn't hurt that he made it for a paltry $38 million (very cheap compared to similar sci-fi epics and other Diesel movies), so even its lackluster take this weekend doesn't mean the movie won't soon be in the (pitch) black.
Also winning this week are several holdovers. Lee Daniels' The Butler, whose victory over the four-day Labor Day holiday weekend marked its third straight win, finally fell to Number Two, but it still earned an estimated $8.9 million, off just 40 percent from last week. With a 24-day total of $91.9 million, it's probably just a few days away from crossing the $100 million mark.
Last week's surprise bilingual comedy smash Instructions Not Included actually increased its earnings over last week (to an estimated $8.1 million, up 3 percent) and rose two spots in the count to Number Three, having expanded from 369 theaters into 717. With a 10-day total of $20.3 million, it's already the tenth highest-grossing foreign language film in U.S. box office history.
We're The Millers and Planes have also kept their tenacious grasp on the top five. Millers came in at Number Four and added another estimated $7.9 million to its five-week total of $123.8 million. That means the movie has now surpassed the $117.5 million earned two years ago by the last Jason Sudeikis-Jennifer Aniston comedy, Horrible Bosses. As for Planes, it's still the animated/family movie of choice, landing at Number Five this week with another estimated $4.3 million. After five weeks, Disney's Cars spinoff, originally meant to go straight to video, has earned $79.3 million in theaters.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: One Direction. Sorry boys, but your concert doc One Direction: This Is Us, which was the Friday-to-Sunday winner over the Labor Day holiday last weekend, fell to sixth place with an estimated $4.1 million. Concert movies like this do tend to get most of their audience the first weekend (even the first night), but This Is Us fell hard, losing 74 percent of last weekend's business. At this point in its release, it's doing better than the Jonas Brothers' 3D Concert Experience ($16.8 million), not nearly as well as Justin Bieber's Never Say Never ($48.2 million).
'RYE' TOAST: Shane Salerno's Salinger, a documentary whose campaign of secrecy was worthy of the reclusive Catcher in the Rye author, finally revealed its supposedly juicy gossip about the late writer when it hit theaters this weekend. With a potential audience that includes everyone who read Catcher in high school – that is, every adult in America – Salinger earned an estimated $91,000 on 4 screens. That gives it the highest per-screen average ($22,750) of any movie in theaters this weekend. At the opposite end of the art-house box office was Hell Baby, the horror spoof created by The State alumni Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. These guys are accustomed to writing big blockbusters like the Night at the Museum movies, but this one opened with just $5,300 on ten screens, for an embarrassingly low per-screen average of $530. That means they sold about four or five tickets at each screening. Now, that's scary.