WINNER OF THE WEEK: Eugenio Derbez. The Mexican comic actor may be barely known among English-speaking audiences (he had a dual role in Adam Sandler’s Jack & Jill), but to Latino moviegoers, he’s a huge star. That’s why Instructions Not Included – a bilingual comedy he directed, co-wrote, and starred in, about a dad in a custody battle with his estranged baby mama over their daughter – was not even on the radar of most box office pundits, yet opened in fifth place this weekend with an estimated $7.5 million from Friday to Sunday and a projected $9.3 million over the whole holiday weekend. That’s especially strong for a movie playing on just 347 screens; it averaged $21,614 per theater, more than three times what any wide-release movie earned this weekend. Credit Derbez’ fanbase and plenty of very good word-of-mouth (as measured by an A+ from CinemaScore). Also credit the hunger of a largely untapped American market for Spanish-language movies.
Oh yeah, the guys from One Direction didn’t do too badly, either. From Friday to Sunday, their backstage concert documentary One Direction: This Is Us earned an estimated $17.0 million to debut on top of the chart. While it easily beat three-week-old Lee Daniels’ The Butler (with an estimated $14.7 million down just 11 percent from last weekend) over the three-day weekend, the two movies were neck-and-neck for the full Labor Day holiday. By Monday, This Is Us is expected to reach $20.5 million, perhaps just $500,000 ahead of The Butler. With a margin that close, either film could be the Labor Day champ by the time final numbers are released Tuesday.
Also still strong: We’re The Millers and Planes. Millers crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, earning another estimated $12.6 million from Friday to Sunday (good for third place), for a four-week total of $109.6 million for the drug-smuggling comedy. (Through Monday, its holiday weekend take may total $16.2 million.) In fourth place, Planes continued to have the family market to itself in its fourth week, adding an estimated $7.8 million for the three-day weekend and a projected $10.7 million for the full holiday.
LOSERS OF THE WEEK: New thrillers. No one expected much from either Getaway or Closed Circuit, yet both new thrillers underperformed. The Ethan Hawke-Selena Gomez vehicle Getaway opened in ninth place with an estimated three-day total of $4.5 million, which may rise to $5.6 million by the end of Labor Day. It got terrible reviews and weak word-of-mouth (a C+ from CinemaScore), and it blemished what was otherwise a stellar summer for Hawke (with hits Before Midnight and The Purge). Debuting at Number 15, Eric Bana’s Closed Circuit opened on just 870 screens, but it had a similarly poor per-screen average ($2,924, to Getaway‘s $2,115) and earned an estimated three-day total of $2.5 million (which may reach $3.5 million over the four-day weekend). It opened Wednesday, perhaps diluting its weekend impact, for a five-day total of $3.1 million through Sunday.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: Another thriller that drew only $2,414 per screen was Brian De Palma’s Passion; apparently neither the director’s usual over-the-top flourishes nor the promise of steamy lesbian scenes between Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace proved much of a draw. Opening on 14 screens, the film earned an estimated $33,800 through Sunday. Just behind it was housewife-meets-hooker dramedy Afternoon Delight, with an estimated $28,100, but that’s from just two screens, giving the film a $14,050 per screen average that was second this week only to Instructions Not Included. Meanwhile, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine added another estimated $4.0 million to its haul, for a six-week total of $20.5 million. In a couple days, it should overtake Mud (currently at $21.6 million) to become the biggest art-house hit of 2013 so far.