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Box Office Top Ten: ‘The Butler,’ ‘We’re the Millers’ Lead Solid Late Summer Weekend; ‘Mortal Instruments’ Another Sony Also-Ran

Box Office Top Ten: 'The Butler,' 'We're the Millers' Lead Solid Late Summer Weekend; 'Mortal Instruments' Another Sony Also-Ran

It’s the dog days of August, the final official week of the summer season, but despite that the top ten this weekend jumped over last year ($86 million, up $11 million). Two strong holdovers — “The Butler” and “We’re the Millers” — held the top two spots, and the three new openers all placed better than the top new film the same weekend last year (when “Premium Rush” placed only #8).

The end of season returns show that audiences can be satisfied with something beyond just the more hyped franchise entries that dominated most of the last few months, many of which failed to satisfy over a period when increased total grosses came with higher budgets. “The Butler” and “We’re the Millers” — both likely $100 million-plus pictures — are significant August hits, with neither film considered typical summer fare.

1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Weinstein) Week 2 – Last Weekend #1

$17,018,000  (-31%) in 3,110 theaters (+177); PSA (per screen average): $5,472; Cumulative: $52,275,000

“The Butler” dropped just 31% to take the number one spot for the second week in a row for the first time for the Weinsteins since 1994, when Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” also launched in the last two weeks of August. 

The Weinsteins are masters of the slow rollout and adding screens to maximize revenues and awards attention. Most of their films that have grossed over $100 million don’t make it to #1 for any given weekend. This pattern for them is unusual, but they banked on the combined power of subject matter and Oprah to propel strong word of mouth for Lee Daniels’ historical multi-decade story. This is an unusually small drop for a second week, and suggests that the film could be heading to a $100 million-plus domestic take.

The drop, though small, is more than “The Help,” which dropped its second weekend (23%) from a slightly bigger opening, also in late August. But that is a minor issue for a film that has clearly gone beyond awareness into popular acceptance.

What comes next: The following weeks are among the weakest of the year, but this looks good to run through September in the top 10.

2. We’re the Millers (Warner Bros.) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #2

$13,500,000 (-25%) in 3,445 theaters (+120); PSA: $3,919; Cumulative: $91,740,000

Holding even better than “The Butler,” Warner Bros.’ unexpected late summer comedy hit is a strong #2, grossing more than #1 film “The Expendables 2” a year ago. With a low budget of $37 million and international just getting under way, this looks like it with easily outgross “The Hangover 3” domestically (which grossed $112 million but cost $103 million before marketing). 

What comes next: With summer almost over, this likely won’t threaten “The Heat” as top comedy of the season, but it now looks certain the top two laffers boast female leads: Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy, and Jennifer Aniston, respectively.

3. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Sony) NEW –  Criticwire: B+; Cinemascore: C; Metacritic: 33

$9,300,000 in 3,118 theaters; PSA: $2,983; Cumulative: $14,051,000

Another attempt to adapt a popular teen girl occult-related novel series (a la “Twilight”) with less than hoped for results (only “The Hunger Games” has managed the trick so far), this German-financed film (made in Canada) was acquired by Sony’s Screen Gems unit for U.S. distribution  (paying all marketing costs). Constantin Films, which has grown from the maker of breakout German-language films like “Nowhere in Africa” and “Downfall” to large roles in co-productions like “The Three Musketeers,” the recent “Resident Evil” entries and the forthcoming “Pompeii,” handled the $60 million production cost and the equal international marketing budget per reports, and has already greenlit a sequel.

As the top teen-focused (with mostly female interest per Sony, 68% of the audience), this rose to #3 with two extra days of play pushing the total gross higher. This still is underwhelming unless the audience reaction manages to sustain this in upcoming weeks.

The German connection for the film extended to its director, Harald Zwart, who has an established presence in American films: his “Karate Kid” remake grossed $176 million for Sony. Co-producer Don Carmody has a lengthy multi-decade career with involvement in Toronto-area made films going back to earlier David Cronenberg and “Porky’s” films as well as “Chicago.” Young actress Lily Collins (“The Blind Side” and “Mirror, Mirror”) has yet to ignite with audiences. 

What comes next: Sony is providing their own competition next weekend with their One Direction concert film. This will need to have unexpected strength to maintain a reasonable gross against that.

4. The World’s End (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: A-; Metacritic: 81

$8,942,000 in 1,549 theaters; PSA: $5,773; Cumulative: $8,942,000

Only one of director Edgar Wright’s films has opened in more theaters (Universal’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), with the earlier entries in his and actor/co-writer Simon Pegg’s Cormeto trilogy “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” initially appearing on under 1,000 screens. Aided by the best reviews of any initially wide release film in 2013 and with a strong fan base that boosted the opening day gross but faded a bit on Saturday, this is a decent opening for a non-mainstream British genre-bending satire. Despite being in 250 more theaters, the PSA was about 40% better than “Blue Jasmine”‘s first wide weekend (indeed this is the best PSA in the top 10), so Focus certainly achieved a decent-sized audience that could sustain momentum in weeks ahead.

Britain’s Working Title Films has a long-running association with Focus and parent company Universal, with “Les Miserables,” “Anna Karenina,” “Atonement,” “United 93” as well as several recent Coen Brothers films released in the U.S. by one of the distributors. This $20 million production (which looks much more expensive) has already taken in over $16 million in the U.K. and a handful of other territories, and looks likely to at least equal if not surpass the $80 million worldwide gross of “Hot Fuzz” with more weeks ahead in the U.S. and most of the world to come.

What comes next: Focus plans to keep this at the current level of theaters targeted in the best locations. They want to maximize the grosses at the number of locations, allowing the film to respond to word of mouth and play steadily for the next few weeks.

5. Planes (Buena Vista) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #4

$8,567,000  (-36%) in 3,378 theaters (-338); PSA: $2,536; Cumulative: $59,591,000

It’s good to be the only recent animated film on any weekend of the year, more so when schools are still out in some parts of the country. Disney’s lower budget, originally aimed for DVD release is having a healthy run, below the top level of cartoon franchise efforts, but good enough to have justified the extra expense of going theatrical. This was a minor percentage drop, and a holiday weekend ahead and not much competition going forward suggests this has an outside shot at $100 million domestic.

What comes next: Unlike most animated films, this is having a slower rollout overseas. So far, with only 20% of the world playing, it has grossed $14 million, suggesting $100 million international is also possible.

6. You’re Next (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: B+; Metacritic: 67

$7,050,000 in 2,437 theaters; PSA: $2,893; Cumulative: $7,050,000

No sections of the Toronto (as well as Sundance) Film Festival have as much of a guarantee of finding U.S. distribution as the Midnight films, so it was no surprise when Lionsgate — whose portfolio includes sharp marketing of low-budget horror films — picked this film up right after its premiere at a reported low price. The unusual aspect was that this was two years ago. Shortly after, they merged with Summit, and found themselves with a surplus of upcoming films, delaying this film’s release until an opportune opening date.

The result was one of the best-reviewed genre films of the year (along with the smash hit “The Conjuring”), although the results are much lower than the Warner Bros. hit. With no stars (though director Joe Swanberg also appears in the new limited/VOD release “Drinking Buddies” this week) and an unusually large number of horror films this summer (something of a change — they tend to appear in non-summer, non-holiday dates), this only brought in modest business.

Director Adam Wingard comes from indie, sometimes mumblecore roots (“A Horrible Way to Die,” “Autoerotic,”) and since this was premiered has shown up in the horror anthologies “V/H/S” and “The ABCs of Death.” The delay might have helped set up audiences for the release, but apparently the horror market has been sated for the moment, resulting in this modest performance.

What comes next: Unless this has an unusually strong hold, it will end up as one of Liongate’s lowest-grossing horror films of late.

7. Elysium (Sony) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #3

$7,100,000 (-48%) in 2,913 theaters (-371); PSA: $2,437; Cumulative: $69,054,000

Holding its middle-ground position as an OK but hardly thriving film, Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi actioner is luckily doing better overseas, with multiple #1 openings and holds in Britain and France among others bringing the total take worldwide so far to about $140 million. This suggests the total gross will ultimately exceed that of his earlier “District 9” ($210 million), and conceivably could turn this into a modest success even at its $115 million cost.

What comes next: Japan is among the significant potentially strong territories yet to open.

8. Percy Jackson – Sea of Monsters (20th Century-Fox) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #6

$5,200,000 (-47%) in 2,730 theaters (-350); PSA: $1,905; Cumulative: $48,346,000

Another film aiming at a young audience, but lagging behind two others, this remains a disappointment for Fox.

What comes next: Overseas is about the same level so far. With a $90 million initial budget pre-marketing, this looks like it will fall short of the $226 million the initial series entry took in worldwide, below expectations.

9. Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5 – Last Weekend: #14

$4,300,000 (+88%) in 1,283 theaters (+1,054); PSA: $3,352; Cumulative: $14,799,000

decent performance for this lauded Woody Allen film, which as a drama
(and end of summer release date) doesn’t have as easy a reach to
crossover audiences as his smash “Midnight in Paris” two years ago. This
is performing at roughly 2/3s the level that “Paris” did at the similar
point of its run, which is excellent, and should make this easily the
biggest specialized/indie film of the year so far within the next two

What comes next: This looks like a good
level for this film to sustain itself at for at least a couple weeks,
but expect it to continue to play as a solid core of theaters for many
weeks to come.

10. Kick-Ass 2 (Universal) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #5

$4,270,000 (-68%) in 2,945 theaters (+5); PSA: $1,450; Cumulative: $22,400,000

gross report this morning understandably was led by the news that their
“Despicable Me 2” has crossed the $800 million mark worldwide, second
only to “Iron Man 3” as a 2013 release (with their “Fast & Furious
6″ only slightly behind in third). That’s far more impressive than the
disappointing performance of their three most recent releases (the
fiasco “R.I.P.D.” and the somewhat disappointing “2 Guns” along with this film).

What comes next: “Despicable” and “Furious” will be back, This looks like the end for “Kick-Ass.”

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