“Instructions Not Included” stars Eugenio Derbez (l) and newcomer Loreto Peralta (r). (Photo/Courtesy Pantelion Films 2013)

Eugenio Derbez movie, “Instructions Not Included,” sets record

“Instructions Not Included”  continued its successful run over the weekend and has officially earned $38.6 million at the U.S. box office, replacing Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” as the top-grossing Spanish language film of all time in the U.S.  “Pans Labyrinth,” released in 2006, previously held the the record for the highest-earning Spanish language film in the U.S. with a total of $37.6 million.

Film producer Pantelion – a joint venture between U.S. distributor Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa – confirmed the news Sunday.

“We’ve been building our brand and our audience for three years, and we’re very pleased that our efforts have resulted in a record-breaking hit,” Pantelion CEO Paul Presburger said in a statement. “The film’s success reaffirms our belief that there is a large audience in the U.S. with an appetite for commercial films with Latino characters and themes. Its performance is a testament to the prodigious talents of Eugenio Derbez; Lionsgate and Televisa’s support, guidance and vision since our launch; an adroit and focused marketing campaign that we developed with Televisa and Univision and the superb distribution and expansion plan executed by the Lionsgate theatrical distribution team.”

“Instructions Not Included” is a comedy about a womanizer (Derbez) whose one-night-stand with an American in Acapulco leaves him with a blonde, blue-eyed daughter whom he raises in Los Angeles.

Eugenio Derbez (c) plays a plan whose daughter (Loreta Peralta -r) is half-American and speaks both fluent English and Spanish.

Eugenio Derbez (c) plays a plan whose daughter (Loreta Peralta -r) is half-American and speaks both fluent English and Spanish. (Photo/Courtesy Pantelion Films 2013)

The film  – released late August – touches on serious issues like immigration, language, discrimination and race, all made palatable for mainstream audiences with the comedic timing for which Derbez is known in his native Mexico.  It’s the type of project Derbez says he’s been waiting to tackle for years, and one has proved to live up to his hope as a major success with audiences north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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“I’ve always wanted to do an American movie – I need this type of vehicle to really achieve a crossover as an actor,” Derbez told NBC Latino of his first major Hollywood film. “I wanted to show people that I’m an emotional guy, not someone who is always laughing and smiling. This is the movie I’ve wanted to make for years – a comedy with a lot of heart. Because if you have heart in your comedy instead of just a joke, you can leave people with something that will last forever.”

The film – with its bilingual, bicultural nuances, heart-warming story and major Hispanic star – strikes just the right chord for Latino audiences, says Charles Ramirez Berg, a media studies professor at the University of Texas.

“It’s comedy, drama. It’s about family. It’s about parenting children. And you are going to get the audience that can relate to that,” Ramirez Berg told the Associated Press. And forget about aiming Latinos as a mere segment of mainstream movie goers. With Latino moviegoers accounting for 25% of all movie tickets sold in the United States last year, they are, more than ever, the audience that matters most to film industry executives.

“”Latinos are becoming more and more the population,” commented Ramirez Berg.  “In a way, you can count on them to be an anchor audience.”

But only time will tell if the box office success of “Instructions Not Included” will add extra momentum to the film as a potential nominee at the 86th annual Oscars in March 2014.

The film is now one of the top four highest-grossing foreign language films in the U.S., just behind “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Life Is Beautiful” and “Hero;”  all movies which went on to receive nominations in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category at the Oscars.

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