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‘How to Be A Latin Lover’ overperforms as ‘Fate’ crosses $1 billion

Eugenio Derbez as Maximo in "How to be a Latin Lover."
(Claudette Barius / Pantelion)

It’s no secret that Universal’s “The Fate of the Furious” cannot be stopped at the box office.

With $19.4 million this weekend, the eighth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has grossed $192.7 million domestically to date. On the international front, the picture crossed the billion-dollar mark, now sitting at $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the latest movie to reach that milestone after Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

For the record:

1:20 p.m. April 30, 2017

An earlier version of this article stated that “Instructions Not Included” went on to become the highest-grossing Spanish-language film released in North America. The film is the highest-grossing Spanish-language film released in the United States and Canada.

But this week, eyes are on different movies that, while not box office champs, are winners in another way.

Pantelion’s “How to Be A Latin Lover” pulled in an estimated $12 million in the U.S. and Canada in its debut week well above analysts’ single-digit projections. Such a performance is history-making for the Latino-focused joint venture of Lionsgate and Grupo Televisa as the studio’s biggest opening to date.

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“We’re all very happy with the results,” said David Spitz, Lionsgate’s distribution chief. “Eugenio [Derbez] has star power.”

“How to Be A Latin Lover” stars Derbez as a man who falls on hard times after a career based on seducing older women. Salma Hayek co-stars along with Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell.

The film’s stellar performance, from just 1,118 targeted locations, is important considering the demographics of its audience. In addition to 50% of them being over 35, a massive 89% of moviegoers were Latino. This massive domestic support for a film lead by one of Mexico’s biggest stars bodes well for Derbez’s hopes to cross over and the future of Pantelion.

Derbez, however, is no complete stranger to American audiences, having stunned the industry in 2013 directing himself in “Instructions Not Included,” which went on to become the highest-grossing Spanish-language film and the fourth-best performing foreign-language film released released in the U.S. and Canada.

And as is often the case with content aimed at specific cultural communities, critics didn’t flock to the picture, giving it a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But it received an A CinemaScore.

But “Latin Lover’s” performance should not be considered a surprise, even though it bested all projections. Rather, it should highlight the need for more nuanced and culturally aware methods for tracking diverse audiences’ tastes, expectations and movie-going potential.

“If you deliver content the audience wants, they absolutely will come out and support the film,” Spitz said.

Eyes are also on Great India Films’ “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” which, after only screening in 420 locations, landed in third with $10.1 million. The Tollywood (Telugu language) film from South India is a historical action drama fantasy and the sequel to 2015’s “Baahubali: The Beginning” which made $3.6 million when it opened in 236 theaters in 2015.

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“The ‘Baahubali’ brand carries a tremendous amount of cachet among its fanbase for whom the filmmakers and the stars of the film have proven to be an irresistible draw,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore.

Directed by SS Rajamouli, known for a host of Trlugu pictures, the film stars Prabhas, Rana Daggubati and Anushka Shetty., all noted actors in India.

“The strength of this staggering debut demonstrates that the passion for a Indian film that is presented in multiple language formats and IMAX should not be underestimated and that a loyal fanbase can propel it to the No. 3 spot at the box office in a marketplace loaded with big budget Hollywood fare,” Dergarabedian said.

While an average Rotten Tomatoes rating is not yet available, the two reviews from the site give the picture three and four stars out of five.

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In fourth place was EuropaCorp and STX Entertainment’s “The Circle” with $9.3 million, just below the lower end of analysts’ $10 million to $12 million expectations.

Based on the 2013 Dave Eggers novel about a powerful Internet company, the film puts a social media-age spin on dystopian nightmares like “1984” and “Brave New World,” in an effort to reach young adults with a heady thriller. It stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega.

EuropaCorp paid $8 million for the rights to the movie, which cost $18 million to make, but audiences and critics are not pleased. “The Circle” has a lousy 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned an equally disappointing D-plus CinemaScore.

Rounding out the top five was 20th Century Fox’s “Boss Baby,” with $9.1 million in its fifth week. The animated flick has brought in $148.5 million domestically to date.

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Of note on the limited release front was “Sleight,” from Blumhouse’s specialty unit BH Tilt. The crime drama about a young black street magician pulled in $1.7 million from 550 theaters, meeting projections of $1.5 million to $2 million. Starring Jacob Latimore, Dulé Hill and Seychelle Gabriel, “Sleight’s” audience was 45% black and 22% Latino.

Next week, the long-awaited “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel debuts along with The Weinstein Co.’s transgender coming of age drama “3 Generations.”

To read the article in Spanish, click here

Follow me on Twitter (@TrevellAnderson) or email me: trevell.anderson@latimes.com.

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UPDATES:

1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with industry comments.

This article originally posted at 9:10 a.m.

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