'The Butler' Tops Box Office with $25m

190813F.Forest-Whitaker.jpg - 190813F.Forest-Whitaker.jpg
 Forest Whitaker stars as Eugene Allenin in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."

This weekend at the box office, a superhero comedy, a Steve Jobs biopic, and a Harrison Ford thriller all got served by a butler. "Lee Daniels' The Butler," to be exact.
The Weinstein Company's awards-bait drama, which stars Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, topped the chart with an excellent $25 million from 2,933 theatres in its first frame. Audiences issued the well-reviewed picture an enthusiastic "A" CinemaScore grade, which sets it up for a lucrative box office run as summer draws to a close.
"The Butler" opened in the same range as "The Help," which found $26 million in its first weekend in August 2011. Like that film, "The Butler" tells a racially charged story that is playing particularly well with older women.
According to Weinstein, crowds were 60 percent female and 76 percent above the age of 35. Winfrey's presence no doubt helped lure in many of those ticket-buyers, as did "The Butler"'s "inspired by a true story" cachet.
Time will tell whether the film can match "The Help"'s $169.7 million total, but given "The Butler"'s low $30 million cost, it doesn't need to hold particularly well to become a major success. Of course, with its positive reception and its reputation as the first Oscar contender of 2013, "The Butler" should have no trouble performing at least as well as 42, which ran away with $95 million after a $27.5 million opening earlier this year. Weinstein may have a true cash cow on its hands.
"We're the Millers" maintained its spot in second place. The pot-smuggling comedy, which stars Jason Sudiekis and Jennifer Aniston, fell only 33 percent in its second weekend to $17.8 million and has now lit up $69.5 million worth of tickets against a trim $37 million budget. "Millers" is now a lock to surpass $100 million at the domestic box office, which would make it Sudeikis' second film to reach the milestone (alongside his previous Aniston team-up, "Horrible Bosses"), and Aniston's sixth.
Last weekend's champ, "Elysium," took a major hit in its sophomore frame. The $115 million sci-fi film dropped 54 percent — the largest fall in the top 10 — to $13.6 million, which gives the tepidly received spectacle a $55.9 million total. Currently, "Elysium" seems headed for an $85 million to $90 million finish — well below director Neill Blomkamp's $115.6 million finish for "District 9."
Down in fourth place, Universal's "Kick-Ass 2" stumbled in its opening weekend with a meagre $13.5 million. That's a big step below the original "Kick-Ass," which debuted to $19.8 million en route to $48.1 million total in 2010. While that was hardly an eye-popping total, Universal pushed ahead with a sequel based on "Kick-Ass"' popularity in geek circles and its strong home video sales. Unfortunately, few people were very interested in the sequel (including star Jim Carrey, who would not do any publicity for the R-rated film after deciding he would not promote violence).
"Kick-Ass 2," which fortunately cost only $28 million, extends the streak of under-performing sequels that has plagued Hollywood over the past month. "Red 2," "The Smurfs 2," "The Wolverine," and "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" have all failed to match their predecessors' grosses. Audiences were 63 percent male and 58 percent below the age of 25, and they awarded the film a "B+" CinemaScore.


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