LOS ANGELES — It was aliens versus Oprah at the box office this weekend, as the surprise run of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” atop the box office charts was stopped by the sci-fi sequel “Riddick,” which brought in an estimated $18.7 million.
The civil rights drama “The Butler,” with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey leading an all-star cast, had spent the previous three weeks as the box-office winner and this weekend came in second, taking in an additional $8.9 million for a cumulative total of nearly $92 million.
“Riddick,” with a reported budget of $38 million, is the third live-action feature with Vin Diesel as the title character, following 2000’s “Pitch Black” (a modest success) and 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick” (a box-office flop).
This is the third weekend this year that Diesel has had the No. 1 film in the country, following two weekends at the top of the charts with “Fast & Furious 6.”
“His audience — they adore him,” said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution at Universal Pictures, which put out both “Riddick” and “Fast 6.” “I think he delivers to the action crowd.”
Written and directed by David Twohy, “Riddick” landed a CinemaScore of B, showing that though moviegoers may not have been entirely wowed, they were suitably entertained.
Even in second place, “The Butler” continued its unexpected box-office momentum. Erik Lomis, head of theatrical distribution for the Weinstein Co., said that the film looked to be on pace to ultimately top out somewhere around $115 million.
“We didn’t expect it to win any weeks, and it won three in a row,” said Lomis, “so we’re pretty happy.”
Third place for the weekend went to the Spanish-language film “Instructions Not Included,” which expanded to 717 screens in its second weekend to bring in an estimated $8.1 million.
The film had surprised box-office watchers last weekend with its debut of $10.4 million in some 347 theaters. “Instructions” also earned a rare A-plus from CinemaScore.
A comedy about a playboy who unexpectedly becomes a single father, the film stars Eugenio Derbez, who also served as director and co-writer.
Paul Presburger, chief executive of Pantelion Films, called Derbez “one of the biggest stars you’ve never heard of” for his popularity among Latinos and new emergence among broader audiences. Derbez appeared Friday night on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
Pantelion was formed three years ago as a joint venture between Lionsgate and Latin media giant Televisa to bring Spanish- and English-language films to Latino moviegoers in the United States.
“From a company perspective, we knew that eventually something would click with our target audience,” said Presburger.
Though as of Sunday morning it had not been finalized whether the film would expand again next weekend, Presburger felt there was still plenty of potential beyond the Spanish-speaking audiences for the film, even if it would mean having “to convince people not to be afraid of subtitles.”
Pantelion will be releasing “Pulling Strings,” a film split 50-50 between English and Spanish, in October.
The documentary “Salinger,” which chronicles the life of the late, famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger, opened this weekend on four screens and brought in just under $91,000 for a strong per-screen average of almost $23,000.
The Weinstein Co.’s Lomis noted that interest in the movie was pushing sales not only of the related book of the same title by David Shields and Shane Salerno but also of Salinger’s iconic “The Catcher in the Rye,” which has jumped to near the top of the Amazon.com sales charts.
The film will be expanding over the next few weeks and also will air on PBS’ “American Masters” next year.