Vin Diesel helped steer "Fast & Furious 6" toward the top of the box-office chart this summer, but can his new film, "Riddick," get the fall season started on the right track?
"Riddick," the third entry in writer-director David Twohy's sci-fi series, is the only film hitting theaters on what is traditionally the slowest moviegoing weekend of the year. Without any new competition in the marketplace, pre-release audience surveys indicate that Diesel's film will likely launch with a healthy $23 million.
But many in the industry said they feel the picture has the potential to launch with over $30 million, given its strong fan buzz. The film's distributor, Universal Pictures, does not believe the movie will open with more than $20 million.
Diesel, 46, first appeared as anti-hero Riddick in 2000's "Pitch Black." Though that film collected a modest $40 million in the U.S. and Canada, it became a cult favorite, and because it was made on the cheap, Universal said it would distribute a sequel. Four years later, however, "The Chronicles of Riddick" earned poor reviews and grossed just $57 million on a $105-million budget.
Universal wasn't keen on releasing a third installment, but Diesel was so eager to reprise the character that he agreed to return to the then-flagging "Fast and the Furious" franchise -- performing a cameo in 2006's "Tokyo Drift" -- in exchange for the "Riddick" rights.
The actor went on to find independent financing for the new, $38-million picture, and Universal ended up contributing a small bit of equity. The studio is releasing the picture in the U.S., but Diesel ventured to Berlin's European Film Market in 2010 to help pre-sell the film's foreign distribution rights.
In "Riddick," the protagonist -- known for his trademark glowing eyes -- fights against aliens and tries to save his home planet. The film, which is generating the most interest among men, on Thursday morning had notched a 59% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
With 46 million Facebook fans, Diesel has generated a loyal following in recent years, thanks largely to the massively successful "Fast and Furious" franchise. (This summer's sixth entry grossed $787 million worldwide.) However, he has not appeared in a non-"Fast" film since 2008's sci-fi thriller "Babylon A.D.," which tanked at the multiplex with just $22 million in domestic sales.
The actor has already signed on for a seventh "Fast" film, set for release in July, and says he will have a supporting role in Marvel's upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Meanwhile, the Spanish-language film "Instructions Not Included" is hoping to expand on its opening-weekend success. Playing in about 350 locations over the Labor Day holiday, the film collected a phenomenal $10.4 million during its first four days in theaters.
This weekend, the low-budget comedy, which features Mexican star Eugenio Derbez as a single father, will expand to 747 cinemas and will likely gross at least an additional $6 million.
UPDATED at 12:40: An earlier version of this post said that "Instructions Not Included" would expand to about 500 theaters this weekend.
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