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The 10 Highest Grossing Debut Efforts from Actors Turned Directors

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 30, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 30, 2013 |

The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs sequel took the top spot at the box office this weekend to absolutely no one’s surprise, particularly given the lack of competition with the target audience (I believe it’s the first kids’ film to be releases since Pixar’s Planes in early August). It made $5 million more than its predecessor, and it’s the fourth highest September opening of all time. Yet, it’s still something of a so-so debut, falling slightly below expectations.

The bleak Prisoners, meanwhile, held on to to the second spot with $11 million, narrowly edging out the wide release of Ron Howard’s Rush, which only mustered $10 million, proving once again that audiences don’t care about race-car films. Olivia Wilde’s box-office poisonous streak also remains intact. She just can’t catch a break, with Rush failing despite an A- Cinemascore rating.

What did not receive a good Cinemascore rating, however, was the number five film, Don Jon, which received a C+. I screened it for a second time this weekend (still great, and an absolute must-see for intelligent people looking for an alternative to typical rom-coms), but I did see a number of people stream out early, clearly uncomfortable with the amount of porn and nudity in the film (and not willing to stick around to learn that Don Jon is actually an indictment of it). The $9 million take, however, was not a bad one for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who made his directorial debut with Don Jon (he also wrote and starred in the film). The $6 million budgeted film should show a profit, but it will likely end its run at the box office in the lower $20 millions, not quite enough to put it among the ten highest grossing debut efforts from directors better known as actors.

Here’s the top 11 in that category. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, and I’m also sure that someone will alert me to the omissions, although I would not count those who were not particularly well known as actors before they became directors.

10 (tie). Jodie Foster: Little Man Tate — $25 million

10 (tie). Mel Gibson: The Man without a Face — $25 million

10 (tie). Tom Hanks: That Thing You Do! — $25 million

8. Zach Braff: Garden State — $26 million

7. Dennis Hopper. Easy Rider — $41 million

6. Penny Marshall. Jumpin’ Jack Flash — $29 million

5. William Shatner: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier — $52 million

4. Robert Redford: Ordinary People — $54 million

3. Eddie Murphy: Harlem Nights — $60 million

2. Warren Beaty: Heaven Can Wait — $81 million

1. Kevin Coster. Dances with Wolves — $184 million

(Other notable debuting box-office successes among actors turned directors include: Bill Murray’s Quick Change ($15 million); Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me ( $10 million); Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher ($21 million); Ron Howard’s Night Shift ($21 million); Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone ($20 million); Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites ($20 million); Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale ($17 million); George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind ($16 million); and Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade ($24 million).


Two more debuts of note include Paula Patton’s Baggage Claim, which had a decent $9.3 million opening, and Metallica Through The Never, which underperformed, putting up only $1.6 million on an $18 million budget.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.