'The Butler' expands its appeal at the box office
05:00 AM, Aug 25, 2013
As recently as last month, Lee Daniels’ The Butler was looking like a box-office mess.
The Weinstein Co., which owned the film rights, had just lost a legal battle with Warner Bros, which claimed that its 1916 short The Butler had title ownership. The studio had to take down posters, its Facebook page, and change the title to add director Lee Daniels. On top of that, it would face a summer slate that included teen favorites: horror and fantasy films.
No matter. Butler fended off another raft of new films this weekend, taking its second consecutive box-office crown with $17 million this weekend, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com.
The sophomore-week effort marks the latest hit for Hollywood’s civil rights films and may have pushed the Forest Whitaker drama into the Oscar race. Butler “made a pretty good case over the weekend that it belongs in the awards conversation,” says Steve Pond, columnist for trade website TheWrap.com.
At a recent screening for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members, Pond says, Butler received “the most enthusiastic reaction to any screening this year.” He says the film could be a lock for “the people who voted for previous Weinstein winners like The King’s Speech and The Artist.”
Among the factors boosting Butler:
That left holdovers and weak newcomers to pick up Butler’s scraps. Jennifer Aniston’s comedy We’re the Millers took second place in its third week with $13.5 million. Among the newcomers, the teen fantasy The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones took third with $9.3 million, followed by the comedy The World’s End with $8.9 million. The Disney cartoon Planes rounded out the top five with $8.6 million.
The horror film You’re Next, which some analysts predicted would win the weekend, fell well short of expectations with $7.1 million, good for seventh place. Final figures are expected Monday.
Attendance is down 3% through the same period last year, Hollywood.com says.