Box office preview: 'Riddick' poised to dominate slow weekend; 'Instructions Not Included' expanding

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Image Credit: Jan Thijs

The booming box office summer is over, and vacation season has officially come to a close. Kids are back in school, parents have lost their summer Fridays, and for many Americans, attention will now shift to the start of NFL football, which kicks off on Sunday. In short, it’s not a great weekend for the movies.

Only one new wide release is hitting theaters this week (along with 23 indies): Universal’s unlikely Vin Diesel sequel Riddick, which should top the chart with ease. Also hoping to make a splash is the Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, which broke out last weekend with $10.4 million and is now getting a significant expansion by distributor Pantelion. Meanwhile, last weekend’s champion over the Friday-Sunday period, One Direction: This Is Us, may plummet out of the top five altogether. Here’s how the chart will likely shake out:

1. Riddick – $23 million
Universal wouldn’t be releasing this nine-years-later sequel to the misfire The Chronicles of Riddick (itself a sequel to cult fave Pitch Black) if Vin Diesel weren’t so important to the studio’s biggest franchise, Fast & Furious. As it stands, though, the company agreed to distribute the sci-fi passion project for Diesel, who raised $38 million from independent financiers to get the project made, and the strategy might just pay off.

Though 2004’s Chronicles earned only $57 million against a $105 million budget, Diesel’s star has risen considerably in the past few years, and he has a loyal fanbase that’s 46 million strong on Facebook. The Riddick franchise has a loyal fanbase of its own, and even though some likely turned away after the poorly reviewed Chronicles, which opened with $27 million, Diesel is hoping quite a few stuck around. Even with ticket price inflation and IMAX fees, it seems unlikely that Riddick will open as high as its predecessor. But tracking is strong, and a $23 million debut would be healthy enough to justify its low costs.

2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler – $10 million
The drama won’t take a fourth weekend in first place, but it’s thriving thanks to great word-of-mouth. Because last weekend’s Sunday numbers were inflated by the fact that most students and adults had Monday off, The Butler (and all holdovers) will fall a bit harder than they have in weekends past. Still, it’s only looking at a 35 percent decline, which would give it about $92 million.

3. We’re the Millers – $8 million
The comedy will surpass Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis’ last film together, Horrible Bosses, this weekend. Bosses grossed $117 million total in 2011, and after an $8 million frame, Millers‘ total will have climbed to $123 million.

4. Instructions Not Included – $7.5 million
Pantelion Films (a joint venture between Lionsgate and Mexican Broadcaster Televisa) successfully opened the Spanish-language comedy to jaw-dropping numbers last weekend. From Friday-Monday, the film starring Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez pulled in $10.4 million from 347 theaters. Now, they’re pushing the comedy, which scored an “A+” CinemaScore, into 747 locations. It’s hard to predict how the film will perform in its sophomore frame, but it certainly won’t match the $29,000 per-theater average it managed last weekend. Still, it’s headed for impressive numbers. I’m thinking about $7.5 million, which would give Instructions $19.5 million total, making it the 10th highest-grossing foreign-language film of all time in the U.S. after only 10 days.

5. Planes – $5 million
One Direction: This Is Us could round out the top five, but given how frontloaded that film was last weekend, I think it just misses that ranking. Disney’s Planes, meanwhile, may be able to stay aloft for one final frame, pulling in $5 million and hitting the $80 million mark.

Where do you think Riddick will finish? And am I underestimating (or overestimating) Instructions Not Included?

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