Box office: Vin Diesel back on top (technically)

Vin Diesel saunters back to the top of a weak box office weekend with "Riddick." Credit: Universal Pictures
Vin Diesel saunters back to the top of a weak box office weekend with “Riddick.”
Credit: Universal Pictures

Vin Diesel’s return as glowing-eyed space traveler “Riddick” won the weekend movie race, ringing up $18.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales and knocking three-time box office queen Oprah Winfrey to second place.

Civil rights drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and media mogul Winfrey, slipped to second, bringing in $8.9 million from Friday through Sunday.

“Instructions Not Included,” a Spanish-language film starring and directed by Mexican television star Eugenio Derbez, was third with $8.1 million in its second week in release in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

The movie doubled its reach to more than 700 theaters after its limited debut a week ago set records for a Spanish film opening in the United States. The film stars Derbez as an Acapulco playboy forced to raise a baby girl left on his doorstep.

Jennifer Aniston comedy “We’re the Millers” took in $7.9 million for fourth place, followed by animated Disney film “Planes” with $4.3 million.

Concert film “One Direction: This is Us,” about the popular British boy band, fell to the No. 6 slot with $4.1 million, according to studio estimates.

While “Riddick” fell short of industry forecasts for a start between $21 million and $24 million at domestic theaters, distributor Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp, had predicted a lower opening between $18 million and $20 million.

“We’re very comfortable with that (total),” said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal Pictures.

“We were realistic about this project,” she noted, adding that “the fan base is here for (Diesel), so we’re hoping it hangs in there” in the coming weeks.

The movie was the only new nationwide release on the post-Labor Day weekend, usually one of year’s slowest at theaters as summer blockbuster season ends and kids return to school.

Diesel promoted “Riddick” to the huge fan base on his Facebook page, which has scored more than 46 million “likes.” The actor is best known for his role in the popular “Fast & Furious” car-chase franchise. “Fast & Furious 6,” released in May, raced to nearly $790 million in global sales, ranking as one of the year’s biggest blockbusters.

“Riddick” is a sequel to 2000 release “Pitch Black” and 2004′s “The Chronicles of Riddick.”

In the new installment, Riddick, an ex-con who can see in the dark, leaves his comfortable world as leader of the Necromonger race to seek out his homeland. Once double-crossed and left for dead, he battles beasts and bounty hunters while he works to rebuild himself physically and morally.

“Riddick” was independently financed for $38 million.

“The Butler,” released on August 16, brought its cumulative sales to $91.9 million. The movie starring Whitaker as a long-serving White House butler and Winfrey as his hard-drinking wife, topped box office rankings in its first two weekends and again over the four-day Labor Day period.

Universal Pictures released “Riddick” in the United States, and eOne Entertainment distributed the film in Canada. The privately held Weinstein Company distributed “The Butler.” Sony Corp’s movie studio released “One Direction.”

“Instructions Not Included” was distributed by Pantelion, a joint venture of Hollywood studio Lions Gate Entertainment and Mexican media giant Televisa.

Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, released “We’re the Millers.”


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