×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood Gets ‘Instructions’ From Latino Audiences

How Lionsgate and Pantelion cooked up what will become the biggest-grossing Spanish-language film in the U.S.

It seems Lionsgate and Pantelion have finally found the instructions for how to target widespread Hispanic auds. 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.

“This is his movie,” says Pantelion CEO Paul Presburger. “He has a very loyal audience, and he’s devoted so much time to marketing this movie.”

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 aud 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.

“If you look at demographic changes over the last five years, in terms of where people are moving, places like North Carolina are now heavily populated with Latinos,” Presburger notes.

While “Instructions” also has marketing and distribution muscle from a big distrib (Pantelion is a joint label between Lionsgate and Televisa), the commercial dramatic comedy hasn’t tapped into non-Hispanics the way “Pan’s Labyrinth” did when it became an awards contender.

“A lot of people will say this film came out of nowhere, but we spent a lot of time and energy marketing the film to our core audience,” Presburger told Variety after the film’s Labor Day release.

“We didn’t rely just on Univision, we also bought outdoor media and radio that would hit family and women demographics.”

Targeting families — an underserved demo since “Planes” bowed more than a month ago — has been a key component to the film’s success, driven, in large part, by Derbez’s presence. Tie-in promotions for “Instructions” included the Jarritos soda located at several hundred supermarkets throughout the U.S.

Pantelion has released several other Spanish-language films, including Eva Mendes’ “Girl In Progress,” which grossed only $2.6 million last year. Its biggest release before “Instructions” was Will Ferrell’s Spanish-lingo R-rated comedy “Casa de mi Padre.”

Up next for Pantelion is the 50/50 split English-Spanish language comedy “Pulling Strings,” which bows Oct. 4.

More Film

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Crosses $250 Million at Foreign Box Office

    Things are going swimmingly at the box office for “Aquaman” as the Warner Bros.’ superhero flick hits another major milestone overseas. James Wan’s take on the ruler of the seven seas just passed $250 million internationally, and a weekend haul of $126.4 million from 43 territories brings its foreign tally to $261.3 million. “Aquaman” — [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    'Mortal Engines' to Lose More Than $100 Million at Box Office

    “Mortal Engines,” a steampunk fantasy adventure, is also an epic flop. With a budget of just over $100 million and tens of millions in global marketing costs, executives at rival studios estimate that the movie will lose upwards of $100 million. Some even project that number could float to more than $125 million. “Mortal Engines” [...]

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content