Summer is officially over, and this year's was a scorcher: 583 million tickets sold for a record-breaking $4.8 billion in total domestic revenue. It was a season of colossal flops like The Lone Ranger, White House Down, and R.I.P.D., as well as blockbusters with huge grosses, including Fast & Furious 6 ($238.7 million), Man of Steel ($290.8 million), and reigning champ Iron Man 3 ($408.9 million) — to say nothing of animated hits like Monsters University ($264.4 million) and Despicable Me 2 ($355.9 million), and mid-budget successes like The Heat and The Conjuring closing the season north of $100 million.
While the coming autumn may also prove lucrative for Hollywood, its first weekend at the box office was predictably sluggish, having to compete with football season gearing up and kids heading back-to-school. The September 6–8 weekend saw an estimated 33% decline in domestic grosses since the previous weekend, with the top 20 films totaling only $77 million, the worst tally of 2013. Overall grosses are up 23.5% from last year, but that's partly due to increased IMAX/3D offerings, and higher ticket prices in general (27 cents higher than 2012 prices, on average nationwide). Since the weekend after Labor Day is historically one of the softest of the year, there was only one major studio début, and it won the weekend with a fairly modest gross:
#1 — Riddick, $18.7 million
(Universal Pictures. Opening weekend – 3,107 screens. #74th highest gross of the year so far.)
Riddick finds Vin Diesel's titular sci-fi antihero betrayed and abandoned on a hostile, sun-scorched planet, hunted by mercenaries and alien creatures alike. In her review for The Dissolve, Tasha Robinson describes the film as "a glowering contest of wills, punctuated by ultra-aggressive he-man gruntiness... It's a simple power-fantasy that invites viewers to imagine themselves in Riddick's boots, as the biggest, most impervious, most unquestionably indomitable badass in the room."
This is the third installment in a somewhat unlikely trilogy. The first film, Pitch Black, had a $11.6 million opening and a total domestic gross of $39.2 million in 2000. Its sequel, an overstuffed space opera called Chronicles of Riddick, opened even stronger at $24.3 million with a $57.8 million total gross in 2004, but failed to recoup its huge $105 million budget with North American sales. This third Riddick has yet to clear its $38 million price tag, much of which was independently financed by Diesel himself (Diesel owns the Riddick brand, having negotiated them from Universal in exchange for a cameo in 2006's Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). The fact that Riddick did not break the $20 million mark does not bode well for the franchise. For comparison's sake, consider the last four Resident Evil movies. These star-driven, sci-fi action sequels had early September openings ranging between $21.1 million and $26.7 million; with a weak bow of only $18.7 million, Riddick is unlikely to break $50 million.
This past weekend, large percentages of the Riddick audience were male (59 percent) and Hispanic (37 percent); 53 percent were over the age of 30. IMAX sales on 314 screens contributed $2.5 million to the total take. The film opens in 22 international markets this weekend. Critical reception was tepid: Rotten Tomatoes 60%, Metacritic 48%, CinemaScore B. Runtime is 1 hour, 59 minutes. Rated R.
#2 — Lee Daniels' The Butler, $8.9 million
(The Weinstein Company. Week 4 – 3,330 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $91.9 million to date, #25th highest gross of the year so far.)
#3 — Instructions Not Included, $8.1 million
(Lionsgate. Week 2 – 717 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $20.3 million to date, #71st highest gross of the year so far.)
#4 — We're the Millers, $7.9 million
(Warner Bros. Week 5 – 3,445 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $123.8 million to date, #16th highest gross of the year so far.)
#5 — Planes, $4.3 million
(Buena Vista. Week 5 – 3,033 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $79.3 million to date, #30th highest gross of the year so far.)
#6 — One Direction: This is Us, $4.1 million
(TriStar/Sony/Columbia. Week 2 – 2,735 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $24 million to date, #64th highest gross of the year so far.)
#7 — Elysium, $3.1 million
(TriStar/Sony/Columbia. Week 5 – 2,241 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $85 million to date, #28th highest gross of the year so far.)
#8 — Blue Jasmine, $2.7 million
(Sony Classics. Week 7 – 1,069 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $25.4 million to date, #63rd highest gross of the year so far.)
#9 — Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, $2.5 million
(20th Century Fox. Week 5 – 2,045 screens. Opening weekend: 3,107 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $59.8 million to date, #41st highest gross of the year so far.)
#10 — The World's End, $2.3 million
(Focus Features. Week 3 – 1,520 screens. Opening weekend: 3,107 screens. Cumulative domestic total: $21.7 million to date, #67th highest gross of the year so far.)
#11 — The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, $2.2 million
#12 — Getaway, $2.2 million
#13 — This is the End (re-release), $2 million
#14 — You're Next, $1.6 million
#15 — Despicable Me 2, $1.4 million
#16 — 2 Guns, $1.4 million
#17 — The Grandmaster, $1 million
#18 — Closed Circuit, $965,000
#19 — The Smurfs 2, $925,000
#20 — The Wolverine, $775,000
Data via Box Office Mojo unless otherwise noted. All figures current as of printing.