Weekend Box Office: LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER Retains Top Spot on Soft August Weekend

     August 25, 2013

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In terms of grosses, summer 2013 is not going out with a bang. For the fourth year in a row, a holdover took the number one spot at the pre-Labor Day box office while new releases struggled. Among the latter, The World’s End looked strongest – both financially and critically – while Sony/Screen Gems’ The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones became the latest young-adult fantasy adaptation to disappoint.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Lee Daniels’ The Butler $17,018,000 $52.2
2.  We’re the Millers $13,500,000 $91.7
3.  The Mortal Instruments $9,300,000 $14
4.  The World’s End $8,942,000 $8.9
5.  Planes $8,567,000 $59.5
6.  Elysium $7,100,000 $69
7.  You’re Next
$7,050,000 $7
8.  Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters $5,200,000 $48.3
9.  Blue Jasmine $4,300,119 $14.7
10.  Kick-Ass 2 $4,300,000 $22.4

the-butler-posterAfter its surprise win last weekend, Lee Daniels’ The Butler was the favorite to take top honors in its sophomore frame. It did not disappoint. The drama was down just 31% this weekend, giving it a ten day domestic total of $52.2 million. In comparison, The Help was down by 23% on its second weekend, with earnings of $57.1 million after ten days. The Help went on to stay on top for two more weeks and even managed a .4% increase over the 2011 Labor Day frame: two feats The Butler is not expected to match. Word of mouth should allow the film to hold well again next weekend but, in order to claim a third win, the debut of the One Direction: This Is Us concert film will have to seriously miss the mark.

The Butler was not the only holdover that impressed this weekend. We’re the Millers was down just 25% to stay in second-place for a third weekend in a row. For an original, R-rated comedy with middling reviews (47% on Rotten Tomatoes), this kind of success is almost unprecedented. We’re the Millers has earned  $91.7 million in nineteen days: putting it ahead of 2008’s Tropic Thunder and 2011’s Horrible Bosses even after adjusting for inflation. At this point, The Millers (reported budget $37 million) will pass $100 million by Labor Day – making it the last, and most unexpected, big hit of the summer.

the-mortal-instruments-city-of-bones-lily-collins-jamie-campbell-bower-3By the numbers, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones leads its fellow new releases thanks to its third-place debut. But rankings rarely reveal the whole truth. The Mortal Instruments had the second-highest theatre count (only Disney’s Planes was wider) so its estimate of $9.3 million from 3,118 locations actually qualifies as a bit of a disappointment.  Based on the popular fantasy series by author Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments  was projected to earn over $15 million in its first five days (after a Wednesday debut). Though its $14 million came close, that is hardly a number to inspire a new franchise in The Hunger Games mode.  On the up side, The Mortal Instruments  did outpace Beautiful Creatures, Warner Bros. young-adult adaptation that took in just $19.4 million in total last February.

worlds-end-poster-simon-peggMuch more encouraging was the debut of The World’s End: the latest comedy from director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Though it fell a bit short of its $10 million target, The World’s End made nearly as much as The Mortal Instruments did in half as many locations. In fact, aside from Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (which captured $4.3 million after expanding to 1,283 locations on Friday), The World’s End posted the frame’s highest per-theatre average of $5,733 from 1,549 venues. The R-rated comedy also rates as one of the summer’s best-reviewed releases (currently 91% on Rotten Tomatoes), which should help with word of mouth entering Labor Day weekend.

Like The World’s End, the new horror feature You’re Next also enjoyed high critical praise. Unlike the comedy, however, that praise did not result in a solid showing at the box office. Earlier this week, You’re Next looked like it might become the summer’s latest horror success-story, following The Purge and The Conjuring. The Lionsgate release was even thought to be in the running for first place, based on pre-release buzz and its projections of a $15-$20 million opening. Instead, You’re Next took in just over $7 million from its 2,437 locations. Even without the hype, that is a low number for a horror film in August. Less than the $7.7 million the Fright Night remake earned back in 2011, in fact.

Though the numbers are less than inspiring, the overall box office was actually up over 2012 by more than 10%. That’s a good sign for Labor Day – the summer box office’s official expiration date. Labor Day rarely results in impressive numbers (All About Steve ranks as one of the holiday’s all-time best openings) so, fans of One Direction aside, no one is expecting big box office news next weekend. Sorry Getaway.

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