Box Office Riddick Vin DieselSUNDAY 6 AM, 4TH UPDATE: Welcome to one of the slowest weekends at the domestic box office. The movie season is off to a weak start – just $70M total filmgoing. Yes, that’s +20% over last year but only because of higher ticket prices and more 3D premiums. And no don’t blame this on some outages at online ticketseller Fandango on Saturday – because the studios aren’t. It doesn’t help that Hollywood once again is determined to churn out unnecessary sequels and threequels.

#1 - In this case, blame Vin Diesel who now owns the Riddick role and is keeping the $38M independently financed sci-fi franchise on life support. He leveraged a lot of his own assets because he loves this galactic ex-con character or hopes to earn more coin from it or both. Universal released in 3,107 U.S. theaters while eOne Entertainment is distributing in Canada. The R-rated pic opened mediocre with $7.3M Friday and $7.1M Saturday for what Universal says is a mediocre $18.6M weekend (but Hollywood estimates at $19.2M). it opened on 314 IMAX screens in North America, delivering about $2.5M. That’s after earning a middling ‘B’ CinemaScore from audiences and grossing an unimpressive $900K from Thursday night’s domestic late shows and Friday’s midnights. Even though this actioner had this first fall weekend all to itself, it took in only 1/2 what the original made and 1/3 what the sequel earned. The 3rd installment clearly didn’t expand beyond core fanboys since the outlaw character hasn’t been featured in a film in 9 years – although it’s been in a succession of DVDs and video games. Exit polls showed the audience was 59% male/41% female, 47% under age 30/53% age 30+, and 37% Hispanic/31% Caucasian. Written and directed (again) by David Twohy, produced (again) by Ted Fields, and starring Diesel (again), Riddick follows 2000′s Pitch Black which earned $39.5M and then 2004′s The Chronicles Of Riddick whose bloated budget made $57.8M gross. Diesel has been both savvy and stupid behind the scenes of this pic. When Universal wanted him for a cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, he asked for the rights to the Riddick character instead of an acting fee. Diesel and Twohy tackled the script problems and went into production on the threequel. When a completion bond fell through, Diesel personally advanced funds until bank loans were secured. Eventually Universal came back in with an equity position but also insisted on a PG13 rating. Diesel fought the studio for an R rating – and the result is more bone-crushing and blood gushing violence. Oh joy. As Diesel told interviewers pre-release: “There’s something appropriate and liberating and honest and free about going into a picture like this, and being able to make it a rated-R picture and not have to comply with an understandable studio mandate of PG filmmaking for the blockbusters.” (Is it any wonder that half of America hates Hollywood?) Now Riddick’s international release is being handled by various independent distributors and opens this weekend in 22 overseas markets including the UK and some European countries, Hong Kong, and the Middle East. Hopefully it’ll gain traction there for Vin.

#2Lee Daniels’ The Butler (3,330 theaters) from The Weinstein Company finally drops out of the top spot. It placed #2 with $2.3M Friday and $3.9M Saturday. That’s $8.2M-$8.9M for the weekend and a $91.3M-$91.9M cume in Week 4.

#3 - Warner Bros/New Line’s 5-week-strong laugher We’re The Millers (3,445 theaters) made $2.2M on Friday and $3.6M Saturday for a $7.9M weekend and $123.8M cume.

#4 - Lionsgate’s Spanish language holdover Instructions Not Included (717 theaters) made $1.6M Friday and $3.3M Saturday which is off only -20% from last weekend. That’s a $7.4M weekend for a $19.6M cume. With word of mouth spreading due to its ‘A+’ CinemaScore, Instructions Not Included expanded its U.S. run to target crossover audiences. Made for a $5M budget and acquired by Pantelion Films, the family comedy was the big story coming out of Labor Day Weekend at half as many locations for the best-ever domestic debut for a Spanish language film. Pantelion Films is a joint venture between Lionsgate and Mexico’s media powerhouse Televisa with plans to release 8-to-10 films per year.

Concert movies are always front-loaded so no surprise that Sony/TriStar’s holdover One Direction: This Is Us dropped from #5 to #6. Here’s the rest of the Top Ten based on weekend estimates:

5. Planes (Disney) Week 5 [Runs 3,033] PG
Friday $862K, Saturday $2.0M, Weekend $4.1M, Cume $79.1M

6. One Direction: This Is Us (TriStar/Sony) Week 2 [Runs 2,735] PG
Friday $1.6M, Saturday $1.8MM, Weekend $4.0M (-74%), Cume $23.9M

7. Elysium (Sony) Week 5 [Runs 2,241] R
Friday $887K, Saturday $1.4M, Weekend $3.0M, Cume $85.0M

8. Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (Fox) Week 5 [Runs 2,045] PG
Friday $519K, Saturday $1.1M, Weekend $2.3M, Cume $59.7M

9. Blue Jasmine (Sony Classics) Week 7 [Runs 1,069] PG13
Friday $655K, Saturday $1.1M, Weekend $2.3M, Cume $25.0M

10. The World’s End (Focus Features) Week 3 [Runs 1,520] R
Friday $697K, Saturday Weekend $2.2M, Cume $21.7M

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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