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Gerald Erichsen

Spanish-Language Film Breaks U.S. Premiere Record

By September 1, 2013

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A Mexican movie, Instructions Not Included, is a surprise hit in the United States and appears to have broken the record for a U.S. opening weekend for a Spanish-language film.

According to studio estimates, the film grossed $7.5 million for the three days beginning Friday, making it the weekend's No. 5 movie and placing well ahead of two of the three major English-language films that premiered.

The film's numbers are particularly impressive as it opened at only 347 theaters compared with the 2,000 or more theaters that are typical for a major film release. Its per-theater average of more than $21,000 appears to be the most of any film this weekend, and it also has grossed more than any other non-English-language film in the U.S. this year. The film opened mostly in the country's largest metropolitan areas as well as some smaller cities such as Lubbock, Texas, with large Mexican-American populations.

Instructions Not Included stars Mexican film and TV star Eugenio Derbez, who also directed. The comedy-drama tells the story of a man from Acapulco, Mexico, who suddenly is entrusted with the care of a young girl he didn't know he had and then travels to the United States to find her mother.

Unlike most foreign-language films shown in the U.S., the film apparently was marketed directly to Spanish speakers rather than to general audiences attending art-house theaters. The film, although promoted by Lionsgate, a major film distributor, caught movie prognosticators by surprise. "I'd never even heard of the movie until a few minutes ago," admitted film critic Brad Brevet of the Rope of Silicon website on Sunday in his analysis of the weekend box office, "but it just goes to show there are underserved audiences all over this country that will pay to see certain kinds of movies if studios put them in theaters."

The film's Spanish-language title, not used in the U.S., is No se aceptan devoluciones, which means "returns not accepted" or, loosely, "no refunds." (See the lesson on the passive use of se for an explanation.)

The film's opening numbers suggest it will become one of the all-time top Spanish-language films for the U.S. The record holder is El laberinto del fauno (usually known as Pan's Labyrinth), which sold $37.6 million of tickets in the U.S.

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