The Butler Remains Number One Box Office Choice with $17 Million

The Butler Remains Number One Box Office Choice with $17 MillionIt was another quiet August weekend at the North American box office as hits Lee Daniels’ The Butler and We’re the Millers held off newcomers The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The World’s End and You’re Next to stay in the two top spots for another week. The cinematic dog days of August had the top ten down a steep 25% from last week but up 12% from last year at this time.

Positive word-of-mouth that has spread among adult ticket buyers over the past week helped The Butler stay put at number one while losing a mere 31% of its audience. Now on 3,110 screens, the $30 million production took in an estimated $17 million in its sophomore session. The Butler has earned a solid $52.2 million through ten days and could make its way to the $100 million mark by the end of its theatrical run. The film has already become the highest-grossing feature of Lee Daniels’ young career and should become his second serious Oscar contender following his award-winning drama Precious.

Warners’ We’re the Millers once again showed remarkable staying power in its third weekend as the Jennifer Aniston comedy was only off 25%. Continuing to make audiences laugh on 3,445 screens, Millers earned an estimated $13.5 million in its third round to bring its overall total to a great $91.7 million. The $37 million production will cross the $100 million mark by next weekend and could reach $130 million overall.

The latest young adult literary adaptation to bomb at the box office is Sony’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on a best-selling book series by Cassandra Clare, Mortal tells the tale of a young girl (Lily Collins) who discovers that she part of a long line of demon slayers. Reviewers’ slayed the Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) feature, blessing it with a deadly 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Since teens don’t read movie reviews, the chorus of boos for City of Bones probably had little effect on the box office. However, opening a movie squarely targeted at the teen demographic in late August does. With school either looming on the horizon or already underway, the last thing teens have time for right now is another Twilight wannabe. The $60 million production opened this past Wednesday and earned a dire $4.5 million in its first two days of release on 3,118 screens. The Friday-to-Sunday period for City of Bones added a mere $9.3 million to its coffers, bring its five-day opening to a bad $14 million. Despite the awful opening, a sequel is already in the works for next year.

The news was more encouraging for the number four film this weekend, the Focus Features British comedy import The World’s End. The third part of filmmaker Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy that began with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz arrived on 1,549 theaters to earn a promising $8.9 million. The film rode a wave of strong reviews (91% RT approval rating) and had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release.

As with Shaun and Fuzz, World’s End was written by and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. While the debut of The World’s End brought out the Wright faithful, it didn’t bring out too many outside of that circle. The question that remains with The World’s End is will the movie catch on with those not familiar with the former films or will it be the latest feature from the acclaimed trio that achieves a modest success prior to a bigger afterlife on home video.

Rounding out the top five was the Disney animated feature Planes with $8.5 million from 3,378 theaters. Off 36%, the cartoon remains the only game in town for families which should help it reach the $70-75 million mark before by the end of its run. Currently, Planes sits at $59.5 million after three weeks of release.

The week’s other wide release was the film that many industry experts had pegged to give The Butler the greatest challenge for the number one spot. Unfortunately, the best the highly-praised horror feature You’re Next could do was land in seventh place with a meager $7 million from 2,437 screens. While the reviews were exceptionally good for the genre (80% approval on Rotten Tomatoes) and the advanced buzz from film festivals equally as good, the marketing campaign put forward by Lionsgate over the past few weeks made it look like just another slasher movie. Perhaps the studio will revamp their marketing efforts when the movie hits Blu-ray and DVD this fall.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Elysium (Sony) $7.1 million (-48%); $69 million

8. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Fox) $5.2 million (-41%); $48.3 million

9. Blue Jasmine (Sony Classics) $4.3 million (1st week of wide release); $14.8 million

10. Kick-Ass 2 (Universal) $4.2 million (-68%); $22.4 million

Labor Day weekend brings the conspiracy thriller Closed Circuit on Wednesday, and One Direction: This is Us and the Ethan Hawke thriller Getaway on Friday.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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