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The 10 Biggest Opening Weekends for Foreign Language Films of All Time (Two of Which Happened This Weekend)

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 3, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 3, 2013 |

It was a fairly quiet weekend at the box-office, I thought, because Getaway, Closed Circuit and the One Direction concert film were the only wide releases, none of which I expected much from. I typically track the box-office reports all weekend long in order to formulate a box-office trend piece on Sunday night (or in this case, Monday night because of the holiday), but I knew no one would bother with Getaway because who would possibly care, no one would bother with Closed Circuit because no one had ever heard of it (including the star of the movie, Eric Bana) and that, based on the failures of the recent Jonas Brothers concert film and the Katy Perry concert film that no one would likely bother with the One Direction concert movie, either.

I was right on two accounts. Getaway debuted at number 9 with $4.5 million, which was frankly more than I thought it would make, and Closed Circuit debuted at number 15, with $2.5 million (again, about $1 million more than I thought it would make). I was wrong, however, in the interest for a One Direction concert film as One Direction: This is Us debuted at number one over the weekend with $17 million, ahead of The Butler ($14.7 million, $79 million cumulative) and We’re the Millers ($12 million, $109 million cumulative. Rawson Thurber is no doubt pleased that Millers will surpass his Dodgeball’s $116 million take next week, so he can now brag about the Millers take during his fantasy football drafts, not that I would know anything about this).

Still, the huge, huge surprise of the weekend was from a movie that opened in only 317 theaters, a movie in fact that I’d never heard of. The Spanish-speaking Instructions Not Included debuted with a whopping $7.5 million, which is the fourth biggest debut of all time for a limited release movie. It’s also the fourth biggest debut weekend of all time for a foreign language film, although it opened in significantly fewer theaters than the three films ahead of it. Not for the last time, Instructions Not Included demonstrates the power of the Hispanic demographic in the United States. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population now, but apparently, they also make up 26 percent of the moviegoing public, which certainly suggests studios will likely aim to better exploit that in the future.

It’s a huge number, and completely took me by surprise. It wasn’t the only impressive debut for a foreign-language film over the weekend, either, as Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster — opening in 750 theaters — also put up solid numbers, debuting with $2.4 million. All told, that makes The Grandmaster the 10th highest grossing foreign-language debut of all time.

Here’s the complete list.

1. Hero: $18 million

2. Jet Li’s Fearless: $10 million

3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: $8.6

4. Instructions Not Included: $7.5 million

5. Kung Fu Hustle: $6.7 million

6. Iron Monkey: $6 million

7. The Protector: $5 million

8. Pan’s Labyrinth: $4.5 million

9. Under the Same Moon: $2.7 million

10. The Grandmaster: $2.5 million