Over a busier-than-expected three-day weekend, 3D concert flick One Direction: This is Us narrowly took first place at the box office ahead of Lee Daniels' The Butler. Including Labor Day, however, The Butler ultimately came out on top over the holiday weekend.
The big story, though, is the incredible performance of Spanish-language family comedy Instructions Not Included, which wound up in fifth place despite playing in fewer than 400 theaters.
For the four-day frame, overall business came in over $160 million—that makes this the highest-grossing Labor Day weekend ever. The riches were spread across a ton of titles: over the four-day weekend, 26 different movies grossed over $1 million.
Playing at 2,735 theaters, One Direction: This is Us opened in first place with $15.8 million ($18.5 million four-day). That's way off from the concert movies featuring Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson, all of which started with over $23 million. Still, it's noticeably ahead of concert movie flops from Katy Perry and the Jonas Brothers, and is a good figure for an inexpensive movie with a targeted (cheap) marketing campaign.
Sony geared that marketing effort directly at the British boy band's rabid young female fanbase, and they're the ones who accounted for most of the ticket sales: the audience was 87 percent female and 65 percent under the age of 17. They gave the movie a strong "A" CinemaScore, though that's not necessarily indicative of the movie's long-term prospects. More importantly, the movie had the highest Friday share of opening weekend ever (55.8%), which suggests it's going to be very front-loaded.
In second place, The Butler continued its excellent run by adding $14.9 million ($20.2 million four-day). To date, the historical drama has earned $79.5 million, and it now appears on pace to finish way above $100 million.
Comedy hit We're the Millers earned $12.7 million this weekend ($16.3 million four-day) for a new total of $113.2 million. This makes it the sixth Jennifer Aniston movie to take in over $100 million at the domestic box office. Opening at just 347 theaters, Instructions Not Included took fourth place with an incredible $7.85 million this weekend ($10.4 million four-day). That's significantly higher than other Spanish-language movies from Lionsgate's Pantelion division—Girl in Progress and No Eres Tu, Soy Yo earned just $2.6 million and $1.34 million, respectively, in their entire runs. Instructions star Eugenio Derbez also appeared in those movies, which makes Instructions's huge debut even more remarkable by comparison.
Not only do Hispanics represent a growing percentage of the U.S. population, but they also account for a disproportionately high amount of movie theater ticket sales. According to the Motion Picture Association of America's 2012 theatrical market report, Hispanics made up 17 percent of the population, but 26 percent of frequent moviegoers. In spite of this, there are very few movies made each year that are specifically targeted towards Hispanics.
Simply reaching out to Hispanics isn't enough, though, as proven by the low grosses of Girl in Progress and No Eres Tu, Soy Yo. It's also important that the story resonates, and Instructions Not Included's focus on family seems to have clicked with the audience.
The movie received a rare "A+" CinemaScore, which suggests that it could play well in the long-term. With great word-of-mouth and an incredible per-theater average, it wouldn't be surprising at all if Lionsgate attempts to expand this in to nationwide release next weekend.
Meanwhile, the weekend's other new openers bombed hard. Getaway opened in ninth place with just $4.5 million ($5.6 million four-day), which is on par with Dark Castle Entertainment's Bullet to the Head. The movie never looked particularly good, had a light marketing effort, and received awful reviews, so this debut is about in line with expectations. It received an awful "C+" CinemaScore, and should disappear from theaters quickly.
After a week in limited release, The Grandmaster expanded to 749 theaters and earned $2.48 million this weekend ($3.18 million four-day).
Playing at 870 theaters, Closed Circuit earned just $2.46 million over the three-day weekend ($3.1 million four-day). Including its Wednesday/Thursday grosses, the movie has so far grossed $3.6 million. Even taking in to account the light release, this debut is noticeably worse than that of past Focus Features Labor Day movies like The Constant Gardener, The American and The Debt.
While the foreign box office isn't on exactly the same schedule as the U.S. box office, this still turned out to be a fairly quiet weekend overseas. Elysium led the way with $17.9 million, which includes good debuts in South Korea ($5 million) and Italy ($2 million). To date, the Matt Damon sci-fi flick has earned $97.7 million.
Coinciding with its domestic debut, One Direction: This is Us opened in 53 foreign markets and earned $14.5 million. According to Sony, its openings were on average over twice as high as those of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. The concert movie was particularly strong in the U.K.—the band's native country—where it earned $5.7 million including previews. The Conjuring continued to do great business overseas this weekend. The horror sensation added $12.1 million from 41 markets, which included a repeat first place finish in Mexico ($4.2 million). It's already grossed $109.5 million, and still has openings coming up in Brazil, South Korea and Japan. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters earned $11.4 million for a new total of $82.1 million. It still has five major markets left to open in the next three months, and will ultimately earn more than its predecessor ($138 million).