With Summer officially in the rearview mirror, the Fall season kicks off this weekend with only one new nationwide release: sci-fi action sequel Riddick opens in 3,107 theaters, and should easily take first place at the box office. Add in some appealing holdovers—including surprise hit Instructions Not Included—and this weekend should be a step above the norm for September.
Riddick marks the third time that Vin Diesel has portrayed the titular character, though it's the first time in nearly a decade. The first appearance was in 2000's Pitch Black, which earned a decent $39.5 million before becoming a bit of a cult classic. Four years later—and after Diesel had appeared in hits The Fast and the Furious and XXX—he returned to the Riddick role in The Chronicles of Riddick.
Unfortunately, that sequel cost significantly more than its predecessor but only earned $57.8 million—and it wasn't particularly well-liked either. Nine years later, though, it's likely that fans ignore that in favor of fond memories of Pitch Black and, to a lesser extent, the well-received Riddick video game Escape from Butcher Bay.
After a few quiet years, Diesel's star has gone up again recently thanks to the enormous success of the last three Fast & Furious movies, which have combined to earn over $600 million at the domestic box office (and over $1.17 billion overseas). This new Riddick movie—which is much more modest in budget and scope than Chronicles—is being sold almost entirely on Diesel, who has particularly strong drawing power among males and Hispanics.
With an aggressive marketing campaign and little competition, Riddick could come close to matching The Chronicles of Riddick's $24.3 million debut. Another good comparison is the last four Resident Evil movies, all of which opened between $21 and $27 million in September. Universal is more modestly forecasting $18 to $20 million for the weekend.
Over Labor Day weekend, Spanish-language family comedy Instructions Not Included stunned box office observers when it earned $10.4 million from just 348 locations. Audiences were thrilled with the movie, which received a rare "A+" CinemaScore, and Lionsgate is taking advantage of the movie's strong buzz by expanding it in to 717 theaters this weekend. At a minimum, it should be able to match its $7.85 million three-day start.
The Ultimate Life opens at 412 theaters this weekend, and is hoping to attract underserved Christian audiences. Past Christian movies The Grace Card and To Save a Life had similar releases and brought in just over $1 million in opening weekend; it wouldn't be surprising if The Ultimate Life wound up at about the same level.
In an attempt to capitalize on the buzz generated by this week's Comedy Central Roast of James Franco, Sony is re-releasing This is the End in to 2,161 locations. Through Monday, the comedy hit had earned $96.9 million, and this expansion should help the movie get past the coveted $100 million mark.
Weekend Forecast (September 6-8) 1. Riddick - $21.4 million 2. The Butler - $10.1 million (-32%) 3. Instructions Not Included - $9.7 million (+24%) 4. We're the Millers - $8.4 million (-34%) 5. Planes - $4.7 million (-39%) 6. One Direction - $4 million (-75%)
Bar for Success With a modest budget and decent foreign potential, Riddick doesn't need to be a huge hit at the domestic box office. If it can get to $20 million this weekend, it will be a nice win for everyone involved.