Hollywood Gets ‘Instructions’ from Latino Audiences

Andrew Stewart, Variety, September 24, 2013

It seems Lionsgate and Pantelion have finally found the instructions for how to target widespread Hispanic audiences. Pantelion’s “Instructions Not Included” is the rare film that started with a medium-sized opening and continues to add theaters and increase B.O. in its fourth week.

The $34.3 million domestic grosser is shaping up as a record-breaker in several ways: It’s about to overtake Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” as the highest-grossing Spanish language film ever in the U.S. It’s also the top limited release (under 1,000 screens) of the year, and this last weekend became the biggest Mexican film opening weekend ever in Mexico, with $11.6 million.

Having expanded to 978 theaters from 348 screens in the past few weeks, “Instructions Not Included” has played well in major markets like Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Dallas, with the highest-grossing theaters in California and Texas.

But why has this film clicked with the large Hispanic audience base where many others have not?

Much of it is due to director and star Eugenio Derbez, a Mexican TV telenovela and variety show star who also voices the donkey in “Shrek” in Mexico and starred in “Under the Same Moon,” which grossed a sizable $12.6 million domestically in 2008.

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Pantelion spent less than $5 million marketing the film—a considerable sum for the specialty company, though hardly comparable to a studio’s marketing spend for a major release.

Latino audiences—the most enthusiastic moviegoing demo in the country, representing 22% of frequent moviegoers with only 16% of the U.S. population—turn out in outsized proportions for animated films and studio pics with Latino thesps like the “Fast and Furious” franchise. But many previous attempts to directly target the massive audience with Spanish-language films or using Latino talent have stumbled, perhaps because the modestly-budgeted efforts looked too much like art films and lacked family appeal.

But that’s not the case with “Instructions,” the PG-13-rated story of man whose way of life is threatened when the mother of his six-year-old daughter resurfaces, which has attracted Latino families across the country who often didn’t feel there was much for them in theaters.

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