This Weekend a Documentary and a Foreign Film Opened Bigger Than the New Action Movie

By  · Published on September 2nd, 2013

As a number of box office reports will recognize, this was one of the weirdest weekends ever for new releases. For one thing, a documentary topped the chart for the three-day frame (there’s a chance it won’t win the whole four-day Labor Day weekend, however), and for another thing, a Spanish-language movie in limited release rounded out the top five highest grossing pics. Both of these bettered all other openers, including the action thriller Getaway and the British terrorism thriller Closed Circuit, which debuted Wednesday in a low-end yet still-wide release. It’s certainly the most curious weekend for box office numbers since a Bollywood movie opened in the top ten back in June.

The doc at #1 is One Direction: This Is Us, and as far as I’m aware this is only the seventh nonfiction feature to open this high (the others are Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Jackson: This Is It, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour and the three Jackass movies ‐ I would maybe count Borat, too, but many people would not), and the first since 2010. To show how bad a weekend this was overall, though, This Is Us debuted at almost half the amount that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never did, but sadly that one was just barely beat (by only a few hundred-k) by the Adam Sandler vehicle Just Go With It. Still, you can bet we’ll continue getting 3D music doc-busters starring the pop act du jour thanks to this distinction, even if the One Direction doc winds up losing its neck-and-neck race to Lee Daniels’ The Butler with the Monday holiday included.

At #5 came the foreign film, a Mexican comedy/drama titled Instructions Not Included that’s playing on only 347 screens via Lionsgate. Directed and featuring Spanish-language TV star Eugenio Derbez (you may know him from the Sandler vehicle Jack and Jill), it’s one of those movies where a playboy suddenly finds out he’s a father and the kid is dropped into his life. I don’t know if it’s any good or not, and on Rotten Tomatoes it only has four reviews, two positive and two negative, though the audience score is high at 98% liking it. Instructions obviously had the best per-screen average, too, at $22k, much better than the still-commendable indie debut Afternoon Delight ($14k average over two screens). With a three-day total of $7.5million, it’s apparently a new record for a Spanish movie, and I believe it’s the third best foreign opener behind Hero and Jet Li’s Fearless, both from China.

Should we be surprised at this weekend’s results? Not if we’re aware of the popularity of boy bands and the growing Latino audience, and we all know adult dramas like Closed Circuit are box office poison. Why Getaway did so poorly, though, might be a question worth asking. The demographics for a movie like that aren’t swayed by reviews, even as bad as these were, and it was easily marketed to the Fast and Furious crowd. Word of mouth must have been poor, as the Ethan Hawke-starrer is apparently really, really awful, and its Rotten Tomatoes audience score is in the low 50s, though that’s still greater than the general moviegoers’ ratings on Closed Circuit, Brian De Palma’s Passion and the Kristen Bell movie The Lifeguard.

Here is the top ten highest-grossing films for this weekend plus the results for other new releases, via estimates at Box Office Mojo:

1. One Direction: This Is Us ‐ $17m

2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler ‐ $14.7m

3. We’re the Millers ‐ $12.6m

4. Planes ‐ $7.8m

5. Instructions Not Included ‐ $7.5m

6. Elysium— $6.3m

7. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ‐ $5.2m

8. The World’s End ‐ 4.8m

9. Getaway ‐ $4.5m [our review]

10. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ‐ $4.4m

Closed Circuit ‐ $2.5m [our review]

Passion ‐ $34k [our review]

Afternoon Delight ‐ $28k

Our Nixon— $6k

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.