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New Riddick Movie: Vin Diesel Underwhelms + The Butler True Story Milestone

Riddick movie Vin Diesel
New Riddick movie: Vin Diesel.

New ‘Riddick’ movie: Vin Diesel has underwhelming domestic debut

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Universal’s distribution chief Nikki Rocco may have called Riddick‘s opening-weekend figures “a great result,” but an estimated $18.7 million from 3,107 North American theaters – $2.5 million of that total from 314 IMAX locations – for an action-packed sequel starring Vin Diesel is a disappointing debut. In fact, if studio estimates for the Sept. 6-8 weekend are on target, Riddick‘s per-theater average barely surpassed the $6,000 mark: $6,010 per location, to be exact. And even though it’s true that the weekend after Labor Day tends to be pathetically slow at the U.S. and Canada box office, and that this year’s top-ten figures were 29 percent above last year’s, Riddick‘s box office gross undeniably fell below expectations.

Box office pundits, for instance, had been predicting an opening north of $20 million for the $38 million-budgeted, independently financed sci-fi actioner. And Riddick‘s opening-weekend gross pales when compared to the previous movie in the franchise, The Chronicles of Riddick, which, according to, in June 2004 collected $24.28 million – or approximately $57.5 million today. (Admittedly, The Chronicles of Riddick reportedly cost a much heftier $105 million. ) The first Riddick movie, Pitch Black, opened in February 2000 with a modest $11.57 million – or about $17 million today. Vin Diesel starred and David Twohy directed all three Riddick films.

Chances are Riddick will take a while to match its production budget (not including marketing and distribution costs) at the North American box office; recovering it, at least domestically, is beyond reach. International prospects don’t look too hot either, as Vin Diesel isn’t exactly a major draw outside the Fast and Furious franchise. This weekend, Riddick opened in 31 territories, including the U.K. and Italy, with a lowball $7.4 million.

And regarding the 29 percent increase from post-Labor Day weekend 2012, let’s put things a little in perspective. Last year, the only two “major” domestic debuts were two poorly marketed box office megabombs: Bradley Cooper / Zoe Saldana’s The Words and Henry Cavill’s In the Cold Light of Day. On the equivalent weekend in 2011, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, featuring Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and others, debuted with $22.4 million, while in 2010 Milla Jovovich’s Resident Evil: Afterlife opened with an even more impressive $26.65 million.

Vin Diesel toplines ‘Riddick’ cast

Besides Vin Diesel in the title role, Riddick also features Karl Urban, Jordi Mollà (who surely deserves much better than a supporting role in a lowbrow sci-fier), Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Conrad Pla, Raoul Trujillo, and Nolan Gerard Funk. According to the IMDb, David Twohy also collaborated on the screenplay, along with Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell.

Nikki Rocco Riddick box office quote via The Hollywood Reporter. Vin Diesel Riddick photo: Universal Pictures.

The Butler Jane Fonda Nancy Reagan Alan Rickman Ronald Reagan
Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan in ‘The Butler’

‘The Butler’: ‘True story’ drama passes $100 million milestone at North American box office

Sept. 17 update: Hailed as a sleeper hit upon its North American release in mid-August, Lee DanielsThe Butler, featuring an all-star cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, James Marsden, and Robin Williams, passed the $100 million milestone at the domestic box office last Sunday, Sep. 15. As of Monday, the $30 million-budgeted The Butler‘s domestic box office total stood at $100.5 million, as per

The “based on a true story” account of a black butler (Forest Whitaker) who served eight U.S. presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, during the course of three decades, The Butler was distributed by the Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company. Considering the film’s domestic box office success and the generally positive reviews – 80 percent approval rating and 7.1/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics – expect The Butler to become one of the key players at the 2014 Academy Awards. Nothing appeals more to Academy members than movies with a patina of prestige mixed with a good dose of sentiment.

The Butler has yet to expand internationally, having so far raked in $3.27 million in France, Portugal, and Belgium. Chances are that Lee Daniels’ movie will perform along the lines of Tate Taylor’s similarly themed The Help, a sleeper hit in North America ($169.7 million cume) that performed only passably overseas ($41.9 million according to Box Office Mojo, a possibly incomplete figure). I should add that The Help was immensely helped (bad pun intended) by its awards-season buzz and Oscar nominations, as its all-star cast (Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, etc.) doesn’t consist of major international box office draws, while the Civil Rights era belong to U.S. history, a theme that the overwhelming majority of people outside the United States couldn’t care less about.

‘The Butler’: The Weinstein Company’s fifth movie to reach $100 million

Ignoring inflation, The Butler is only The Weinstein Company’s fifth movie to pass the $100 million milestone at the domestic box office. Its predecessors were the following:

All four aforementioned TWC releases received Best Picture Academy Award nominations, with The King’s Speech as the 2010 winner. Overall, the combined Oscar nominations of those four TWC releases reached a total of 33, including eight wins.

Note: Adjusted for inflation, Scary Movie 4‘s $90.71 million in 2006 would translate into approximately $113 million in 2013. Scary Movie 4, however, failed to receive a single Oscar nomination.

‘The Butler’ cast

Besides Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, James Marsden (as John F. Kennedy), Jane Fonda (as Nancy Reagan), and Robin Williams (as Dwight D. Eisenhower), The Butler‘s extensive cast includes Minka Kelly as Jacqueline Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, and Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King Jr.

Among The Butler‘s other cast members are Alex Pettyfer, Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Danny Strong, Mariah Carey, Colin Walker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jim Gleason, Lenny Kravitz, and Alex Manette. The Butler was written by Danny Strong (of the Sarah Palin cable movie Game Change, starring Julianne Moore, and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2), from an article by Wil Haygood.

Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan The Butler photo: The Weinstein Company.

Sept. 16

Insidious Chapter 2 Barbara Hershey
Barbara Hershey in Insidious: Chapter 2.

Insidious: Chapter 2 box office: Horror movie has second best September debut ever – not taking inflation into account

As further evidence that moviegoers are sick and tired of sequels, James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2, starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and veteran Barbara Hershey, took in $40.3 million this past weekend, Sept. 13–15, at the North America box office according to weekend actuals found at That’s more than three times the $13.3 million* Wan’s Insidious collected in early April 2011. How could that be?

Well, James Wan’s Warner Bros.-distributed The Conjuring, starring Vera Farmiga and Insidious’ Patrick Wilson, became a sleeper horror hit in mid-July, collecting an astounding – for a relatively low-budget horror movie – $41.9 million on its first weekend, ultimately cuming at $136 million in North America in addition to an excellent – once again, for a relatively low-budget horror movie – $135.2 million internationally. That helped to create extra buzz for the FilmDistrict-distributed Insidious: Chapter 2, which officially cost $5 million to produce though its marketing budget was surely not inconsiderable. (Much like the cheaply made, but not cheaply marketed Paranormal Activity movies.)

Something else: For obvious reasons, Friday the 13th is an excellent date to open horror movies. Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill, Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand would all have killed it at the box office had they been lucky enough to open on such a Friday. Anyhow, as per Box Office Mojo, Insidious: Chapter 2 earned more than half of its opening weekend take on Friday proper, dropping a worrisome 33 percent on Saturday and an extra 50 percent on Sunday. For comparison’s sake: The Conjuring was down 17 percent on its first Saturday and 21 percent on Sunday.

Insidious cumed at $54 million in North America. Expect Insidious: Chapter 2 to gross north of $90 million. Could it reach $100 million? Theoretically yes, but unlike The Conjuring, Wan’s second 2013 horror movie suffered the aforementioned steep Saturday and Sunday drops; those indicate that, once again unlike The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2 will likely follow the usual frontloaded path of most horror films.

James Wan in the footsteps of box office trailblazers Andy and Lana Wachowski

According to Box Office Mojo’s Ray Subers, the impressive weekend debuts of James Wan’s The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2 mark only the second time that a film director has had two movies open with more than $40 million in the same year (not taking inflation into account). Andy and Lana Wachowski were the first back in 2003, following the release of the Keanu Reeves sci-fiers / fantasy movies The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8 million or about $124 million adjusted for inflation) and The Matrix Revolutions ($48.5 million or about $66 million adjusted).

Taking inflation into account, James Wan and the Wachowski siblings would have more company. For instance, adjusted for inflation, Steven Spielberg had two movies opening above the $40 million mark in 2002: Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, debuted with approximately $50 million adjusted, while Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, opened with about $42 million.

Once again pretending that inflation doesn’t exist, Insidious: Chapter 2 had the second best September debut ever, trailing only the Adam Sandler-voiced Hotel Transylvania‘s $42.5 million. Once inflation is factored in, Insidious 2 drops a couple of slots, also trailing Andy Tennant’s Reese Witherspoon star vehicle Sweet Home Alabama and the Brett Ratner-directed Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker flick Rush Hour.

Now, inflation or no, Insidious: Chapter 2 is definitely FilmDistrict’s top weekend debut ever, well ahead of the Gerard Butler-Aaron Eckhart actioner Olympus Has Fallen‘s $30.4 million.

Insidious: Chapter 2 cast

Besides Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and Barbara Hershey, Insidious: Chapter 2 features Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Hank Harris, and Jocelin Donahue.

Barbara Hershey Insidious: Chapter 2 image: FilmDistrict.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 box office: Sequel easily tops North America’s Friday chart

Sept. 28 update: By Sunday evening, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 will have provided further evidence that moviegoers are eager for new and original stories, after having been flooded with sequels, prequels, reboots, and spin-offs. Sure.

A Sony Pictures release, the $78 million-budgeted 3D sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is expected to collect – via – somewhere around $10 million from 4,001 locations this Friday, September 27, 2013, easily topping the North American box office chart.

For comparison’s sake, the original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, also in 3D, took in $8.1 million at 3,119 sites in September 2009 (approximately $9 million today), going on to gross $124.9 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $118.1 million internationally according to figures found at Here’s another comparison: in September 2012, Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania, featuring the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, and Selena Gomez, debuted with $11 million at 3,277 venues. Hotel Transylvania ultimately cumed at $148.3 million in North America and $198.6 million internationally. (Note: international totals are frequently incomplete.)

Also worth mentioning, with $42.5 million, Hotel Transylvania holds the opening weekend record for September – if you pretend inflation doesn’t exist. Adjusted for inflation, Hotel Transylvania is no. 3, behind the 1998 Chris Tucker-Jackie Chan comedy Rush Hour‘s approx. $57 million, and the 2002 Reese Witherspoon-Josh Lucas comedy Sweet Home Alabama‘s approx. $50 million.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 cast

Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 features the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Kristen Schaal, Terry Crews, and veteran James Caan (Lady in a Cage, The Godfather). As found on the IMDb, the screenplay is credited to John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, and Erica Rivinoja, from a story by Rivinoja, and by the two original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Friday box office: Ron Howard’s Rush in second place

According to, Friday’s no. 2 movie at the domestic box office should be Ron Howard’s car-racing drama Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth of Thor, The Avengers, and Snow White and the Huntsman fame, and European Film Award winner Daniel Brühl (Good Bye Lenin!), a lesser name in the United States, where most moviegoers lack the capacity to read subtitles. Rush is expected to collect around $3.8 million.

Not far behind, three movies vie for the third spot on the domestic box office chart: Last weekend’s holdover Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Viola Davis, with $3.3 million; the Paula Patton / Adam Brody comedy Baggage Claim, with $3.2 million; and the Joseph Gordon-Levitt-directed-and-written romance-and-pornography comedy Don Jon, starring none other than Joseph Gordon-Levitt himself and Scarlett Johansson, with $3.1 million.

Expect some switching around in the 3-5 box office slots once official Friday estimates are announced on Saturday morning.

Chest V (Will Forte), Flint (Bill Hader) and Barb (Kristen Schaal) in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 image: Sony Pictures.

Sept. 22

Prisoners Movie Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman in Prisoners.

Prisoners movie weekend box office: Best ‘serious’ (non-musical) Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal opening in years

The nearly two-and-a-half-hour thriller Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve, and starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, will easily top the North American box office this weekend, September 20-22, 2013. Currently playing at 3,260 locations, Prisoners took in $7.01 million on Friday, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Budgeted at a reported $46 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses – the Warner Bros. release is expected to collect around $21 million by Sunday evening, as per

How does that compare to previous Hugh Jackman weekend debuts? Setting aside Tom Hooper’s “event musical” Les Misérables and action movies such as The Wolverine, the R-rated Prisoners may turn out to be Jackman’s strongest opening in an “adult (non-musical) film.” For comparison’s sake, Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, co-starring Nicole Kidman, debuted with $14.8 million at 2,642 sites in 2008 (or approximately $17 million today), while Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, co-starring Christian Bale, opened with $14.8 million from 2,281 venues in 2006 (or approximately $18 million today). Both movies were rated PG-13.

As for Jake Gyllenhaal, even taking inflation into account, since his co-starring role opposite Heath Ledger in Ang Lee’s epoch-making Brokeback Mountain he has had only one opening above the $20 million mark at the U.S. and Canada box office: Mike Newell’s eventual domestic disappointment Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which debuted with $30.1 million in May 2010.

Helping things out is the fact that awards-season buzz has been strong for Prisoners following its debut at the Telluride Film Festival a few weeks ago. The film, which has elements in common with Michael Winner-Charles Bronson’s Death Wish, Sam Peckinpah-Dustin Hoffman’s Straw Dogs, Pierre Morel-Liam Neeson’s Taken, and Stanley R. Jaffe / Kate Nelligan’s Without a Trace, currently has an 84 percent approval rating and 7.6/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.

Prisoners’ official weekend box office estimates will be released on Sunday morning. Weekend box office actuals come out on Monday.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman topline ‘Prisoners’ movie cast

Besides Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom will likely be shortlisted for acting awards in the coming months, Prisoners also features two-time Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help), Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde, Erin Gerasimovich, Len Cariou, Wayne Duvall, and Jeff Pope.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s 2010 drama Incendies was a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominee and the winner of 8 Genie Awards, including Best Picture, while his 2009 Montreal massacre drama Polytechnique won 10 Genie Awards, once again including Best Picture. Prisoners screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski’s other feature-film credit is the Mark Wahlberg thriller Contraband; it’s no coincidence that Wahlberg is one of Prisoners’ executive producers.

Hugh Jackman Prisoners movie image: Warner Bros.

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