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Weekend B.O. Aug. 16-18 (How ‘The Butler’ Kicked ‘Kick-Ass 2’s’ Ass)

Weekend B.O. Aug. 16-18 (How 'The Butler' Kicked 'Kick-Ass 2's' Ass)

According to all the box office predictors, Kick-Ass 2 was going to be the No 1
film this weekend. Meanwhile, I was telling anyone who would listen to me (both of them) that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was going to beat its ass. And guess who
was right?

The predictions were that the film would most likely come
in second in the mid-teens around $16-17
. My guess was more like $20-22
. And it turns out that I was off a couple of million since the film came in
with $25 million, which is equal to
the film’s original production budget.

So why was I so sure? A few things:


– The
Weinstein Company
ran maybe one of the best, if not the best, advance PR
hype for any film of theirs in years. You couldn’t go anywhere or see or read anything
in the media (including S & A) that didn’t include interviews with Oprah, Forest Whitaker and Daniels, or some segment or story about the film’s narrative on TV. It was omnipresent and constant. I even saw three different segments
about the film on the BBC News channel, and not on some weekend arts show, but the news channel. And I’ve never seen the BBC News report about
any film on its newscast – American, British or foreign. The film also was helped
greatly by a heavy TV ad campaign, especially in the morning and afternoon hours
when women are watching the most.


Thanks to the PR campaign, the film started to develop that all important momentum,
that “I’ve got to see it” buzz, which
Kick-Ass 2 didn’t have at all. Who was talking about KA2 before it came out?
Did anyone even know it was coming out this weekend or did they care?


– TWC was smart to move The Butler’s original release date from October to mid-August.
The big summer movies have come and gone, and late August to mid Sept is usually
a dead zone for new films. Studios tend to release films that they have little
confidence in and don’t expect to do well at the box office. That gives The Butler
practically no competition from other films, especially dramas, for a full month, until late September, when the
fall film season starts in earnest.

– One constant thing that box office pundits consistently do, is underestimate the older film-going audience. Their attitude is that, only 14-25
year olds go see films, and anyone over 40 just stays home, or doesn’t exist.
While it’s true that older film-goers don’t go to films as often as younger
people, they definitely do go; and when they do, they come out in force. And The
Butler, because of it historical subject matter and cast of familiar names, is
exactly the kind of film that will make them do that.

I tend to discount somewhat the Oprah “factor” which some are
saying is one of the main reasons for the film’s success this weekend. Oprah has
never been, what one would say, a box office powerhouse (Beloved anyone?). Though
I admit that her presence in the film definitely gave it a “curiosity factor” that another actress in the role,
say like Angela Bassett, would not
have given it.

But the biggest hint to me on how the film would do happened last week, when I had a brief conversation with an older black woman in her early
70s, who told me that she couldn’t wait to see The Butler that weekend, adding that: “It’s going to be No.1 this weekend. Watch!

Whoa. I’ve never had a 73 year old person tell me her box
office predictions before, but it also indicated that she was very invested in
the film and was going to do what she could to make the film a success. I
suspect a lot of people felt the same way and went out to see the film.

I pegged the
film to do, perhaps, $75 million total, if it has strong legs for the next
few weeks, which I think it does. But
that was until last night, when a friend of mine told me he saw the film Friday
night, and the entire audience in the packed theater was crying at the end, both
black and white. He said that a white woman sitting next to him in the theater
actually grabbed his arm bawling her eyes out. As a result I’m moving up my
estimate to around $100 million.

Meanwhile Kick-Ass 2 under-performed, coming in at a surprising
4th place, and the other big release this
weekend, Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, pretty much fell flat. But
then again it’s a movie with Ashton Kutcher in the lead role. Need I say more?

1) Lee Daniels’ The Butler Wein. $25,010,000 
2) We’re the Millers WB $17,780,000 Total:$69,513,000 
3) Elysium TriS $13,600,000 Total:$55,914,000 
4) Kick-Ass 2 Uni. $13,568,000 
5) Planes BV $13,141,000 Total:$45,090,000 
6) Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Fox $8,375,000 Total:$38,904,000
7) Jobs ORF $6,700,000
8) 2 Guns Uni. $5,572,000 Total:$59,221,000 
9) The Smurfs 2 Sony $4,600,000  Total:$56,912,000 
10) The Wolverine Fox $4,425,000 Total:$120,458,000  
11) The Conjuring WB $3,910,000 Total:$127,863,000 
12) Despicable Me 2 Uni. $3,781,000 Total:$345,988,000 

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The Butler was good. Not classic, but definitely Lee Daniels best movie by far. I'm curious to see where he goes after this. The next movie choice will reveal a lot.

Interesting to read that the comments below from people who actually care about how whites react to the previews of other black movie trailers. I stopped caring about white opinion years ago.
Try it. Its liberating.


Did someone request a straight, no holds barred review of The Butler? Well, I present Caryn James: "Caryn James writes the James on screenS film and television blog for Indiewire and contributes to other publications including The New York Times Book Review. She regularly hosts on-stage conversations about television at the 92nd St Y."
She is also the author of the novels What Caroline Knew (St. Martin's Press, 2006) and Glorie (Penguin Books, 1999). ~ Huffington Post


The Butler was a great movie. With an A Cinascore this will make a lot of money as well as it should. Oprah is having an outstanding year. Her network is way up I ratings thanks to Tyler Perry and now her movie is An hit and she is getting is getting Oscar buzz. The entire cast did an outstanding ding job.


"KA2" was also hurt by the fact that Jim Carrey denounced the film's violence even before the film was released. The recent school shootings led to his statements.


Not surprised that something that pushes the White agenda like the butler is number one at the box office… you might want to check and see who really bought all of those tickets, the movie goers or the production company that produced it. Our own people wont support a positive, empowering movie like After Earth, but they line up in droves to see a black people serve, get raped, shot and beat down and praise the people who do it … SMDH! Still plugged into the matrix, I'm done.

blah, blah

Sergio, can we get a straight, no holds barred review of The Butler?


Well, since I am a Lee Daniels fan, The Butler got my money and I enjoyed it.

And, going out on a limb… the butler didn't do it, Oprah did. I'm tellin' y'all, Oprah's performance might earn her an Oscar nod. Forrest Whitaker was on par but he didn't have much to do besides serve and be silent. Well, there were confrontations with his son but anyone can do "angry". But Oprah, her character required her to exhibit/express various emotions and nuances (i.e. loose women, worried mother, grieving mother, substance abuser, sympathetic and understanding mother, pissed off wife, party girl (yes, Oprah even shakes her booty). So, in my Opinion this was Oprah's show. But, hat tip to Lee Daniels for keeping the supporting cast in check. Even no acting Cuba Gooding Jr. and over the top Robin Williams held their own. But if you've seen Terrence Howard in Lackawanna Blues and Hustle & Flow, you've seen his performance in The Butler.

Overall I'd give the movie 8 out of 10 stars. At times it was slow and of course predictable, but I'm a sucker for sappy endings.


I'm sooooo happy for Oprah and Lee, and the film in general. I'm predicting that Whitaker will receive his second Oscar nomination for this. What a powerful, moving film. Whitaker was great, and it was nice to see Oprah in a completely different portrayal than any she's ever done, before on screen. And I really like the chemistry between them. Also, LOVED, all of the big name actors who lent themselves to smaller roles. It speaks volumes about their love of craft, and investment in this very important film.

And I thought the screenwriter, Michael Strong, I believe is his name, did a really thorough job with the script. And the way in which old newsreels were woven into the actual film was really sharp editing.

Finally, I will say this. I live in a really white city, like 98 percent white, and the theater was packed on Saturday afternoon when I went to see it. And I felt the emotion, in the theater. This movie is REALLY touching people

Again, really, really happy for all involved in The Butler! !

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