One of the surprise movie hits this past weekend was almost entirely in Spanish. Instructions Not Included made an enormous amount of money per screen, more than $22,000, playing in fewer than 350 theaters. The boys in One Direction had the number one film, but they pulled in less than $6000 per screen. That's a huge victory for star Eugenio Derbez, a household name in Mexico, and for Pantelion films, which has been trying to find a Spanish-language hit in the U.S. film market for a few years now.
Instructions Not Included has a familiar story, no matter what language you tell it in: An American woman and a Mexican playboy have a fling in Acapulco. Months later, she shows up at his doorstep, hands him a baby she says is his, and takes off, leaving the bachelor to clean up his act and raise the adorable little girl by himself.
The film was made specifically for the Mexican and U.S. Latino audience. The studio — a joint venture of Lionsgate and the Mexican company that owns Univision — put its all into promoting the film and its star.
"We did a five city tour with Eugenio," says Pantelion CEO Paul Pressburger. "Eugenio was on Univision non-stop the last week in terms of morning and evening shows."
All of that promotion convinced Catherine Rosales to buy a ticket for Instructions Not Included this week in Washington, D.C.
"It has one of the funniest Hispanic actors," she said on her way into the theater. She'd seen the trailer and heard friends talking about it, too.
Research indicates that many Latinos in the U.S. are movie lovers. Last year, a quarter of all movie tickets sold were bought by Latinos, according to Nielsen. That's not a surprise to Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
"We're a very family-oriented culture," he points out. "When we go to the movies we don't go two at a time. We go all of us at the same time."
But Latinos in the U.S. won't see just any movie says Nogales. Pantelion's been releasing Spanish-language films for a few years but none of them have done very well at the box office. Only one topped the $5 million mark: A comedy starring Will Ferrell, called Casa de mi Padre. It got terrible reviews.
With Instructions Not Included, Alex Nogales thinks Pantelion found the right movie at the right time.
"You have distributors, you have stars, you have population. So when you have all these stars aligning you're going to get these results," Nogales says.
Pantelion is hoping those stars say in alignment. This weekend Instructions Not Included will open in 153 more theaters in the U.S... and in Mexico later this month.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And now, let's talk about this summer's biggest surprise hit at the theater, "Instructions Not Included," a film almost entirely in Spanish with a lead actor who is little known by most Americans.
NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.
ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: "Instructions Not Included" has a familiar plot: An American woman and a Mexican playboy have a fling in Acapulco. Months later, she shows up at his doorstep, hands him a baby - she says is his - and takes off, leaving the bachelor to clean up his act and raise the adorable little girl by himself.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Spanish spoken)
BLAIR: "Instructions Not Included" brought in nearly $8 million at the box office this weekend. Per screen, it made over $22,000 in ticket sales. By comparison, the number one movie at the box office, "One Direction: This Is Us," made less than $6,000 per screen. It's ranked higher because it had a much wider release.
Catherine Rosales and a friend went to see "Instructions Not Included" this week in Washington, D.C.
CATHERINE ROSALES: It has one of the funniest Hispanic actors.
BLAIR: She's talking about Eugenio Derbez who is a movie and TV star in Mexico. Rosales says she's known about the movie for a while.
ROSALES: Because it was on trailers and his mom had already seen it. And plus, it's like it's really nice 'cause we don't have a lot of Hispanic actors.
BLAIR: "Instructions Not Included" was originally made for the Mexican and Latino-American markets, by the company Pantelion Films. CEO Paul Pressburger says they promoted the heck out of it.
PAUL PRESSBURGER: We did a five-city tour with Eugenio. Eugenio was on Univision non-stop the last week, in terms of morning shows and evening shows.
BLAIR: Pantelion is a joint venture between the Hollywood studio, Lions Gate and Mexico's Televisa which owns the Spanish TV powerhouse, Univision. It was created partly to capitalize on the growing Latino population in the U.S., but also because Latinos are movie lovers. Last year, a quarter of all movie tickets sold, were bought by Latinos, according to Nielsen.
ALEX NOGALES: You know, we have a history of it. I was going to films when I was four and five years of age.
BLAIR: Alex Nogales is president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
NOGALES: You know, we're a very family-oriented culture. So when we go to the movies, we don't go two at a time. We go all of us at the same time.
BLAIR: But not just any movie says Nogales. Pantelion has been releasing films for a few years but none of them have done very well at the box office. Only one topped the $5 million mark, a comedy starring Will Ferrell.
(SOUNDBITE OF A MOVIE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Spanish spoken)
BLAIR: This week, Alex Nogales thinks Pantelion found the right movie at the right time.
NOGALES: You have the distributors. You have the actors. You have the interest. You have the population that is seeing that many films. So when you have all these stars align, you're going to get this result.
BLAIR: This weekend, "Instructions Not Included" will open in 153 more theaters in the U.S. and in Mexico later this month.
Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
INSKEEP: (Spanish spoken) Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
(Spanish spoken) Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.