It looks like the third time was definitely the charm for Vin Diesel.
The "Fast & Furious" franchise star scored his third #1 weekend of 2013 with "Riddick," his third turn as the gritty antihero from "Pitch Black" and "The Chronicles of Riddick." The latest installment in the sci-fi series, a combination of the intimate vibe of the first film and the grandiose mythology of the second, collected an estimated $18.6 million during its first weekend at the box office.
On the heels of the success of "The Fast and the Furious" and "xXx," Universal opted to spend a reported $105 million making 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick," the first entry in a proposed trilogy expanding on Diesel's breakout supporting character from "Pitch Black." The movie was ridiculed by most critics and earned a soft $57.7 million during its domestic run. But thanks to Diesel's revitalizing triumphs in the bigger-than-ever "Fast & Furious" series, Universal came back onboard to distribute the much cheaper "Riddick."
"Once we realized we were not going to be a studio picture and we were going to be an independent movie, it became daunting and exciting," writer/director David Twohy told the Hall H crowd at San Diego Comic-Con, speaking of the pre-distributor genesis of "Riddick." "Production meetings were in Vin's kitchen. He'd roam around, trying not to smoke his American Spirits."
The same weekend last year did only 71 percent of the overall business of this past weekend; this weekend, however, was still 2013's smallest. The first weekend in September is typically slow, with kids going back to school and many people staying in to watch football.
Thanks to Diesel's blade-wielding, goggles-sporting badass, three-time champion "The Butler" was dethroned. "Lee Daniels' The Butler" was #2 with $8.9 million, giving the critically acclaimed historical drama a $91.9 million four-week total.
Spanish-language comedy "Instructions Not Included" jumped up to #3 thanks to a nationwide expansion over the weekend. "Instructions" earned $8.1 million over the weekend from just 717 theaters; by comparison, "Riddick" was playing in 3,107.
The reunion of "Horrible Bosses" co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, "We're the Millers," was #4 with another $7.9 million. The modestly budgeted R-rated comedy has made $123.8 million thus far domestically. "Millers" is Aniston's sixth film to pass the $100 million mark, having already passed up "Just Go With It" ($103 million), "Horrible Bosses" ($117 million) and "The Break-Up" ($118.7 million); "Millers" is now hot on the heels of "Marley and Me" ($143.1 million). Her biggest hit remains "Bruce Almighty" ($242.8 million) with Jim Carrey.
Disney's "Planes" remained at #5 for a second weekend with $4.3 million. Given that the "Cars" spinoff was once intended to go directly to DVD, the $79.3 million haul of the summer's last kid-friendly animated flick is pretty strong. "One Direction: This Is Us" was bounced from the top five during its second weekend, taking in $4.1 million. The 3-D documentary has made $23.9 million.
As the film community focuses its attention on the Toronto International Film Festival, the rest of America will gear up for "Insidious: Chapter 2" and Robert De Niro's "The Family," neither of which has screened for critics yet.