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‘The Butler’ and ‘We’re the Millers’ Continue Strong at Box Office, ‘World’s End’ Could Be Wright’s Biggest Grosser

'The Butler' and 'We're the Millers' Continue Strong at Box Office, 'World's End' Could Be Wright's Biggest Grosser

Unlike some who find reporting on this kind of weekend not worth their time or analysis, there’s a lot going on. For one thing, by Sunday the year’s box office will officially be ahead of last year. For another, two solid late summer entries, “The Butler” and “We’re the Millers,” both held well to take the top two positions with signs of more success ahead. And three diverse new openers had variable success, led by Edgar Wright’s acclaimed “The World’s End” at just over 1,500 screens.

The $27-million-plus take for Friday was up over 20% from last year despite the supposed lackluster lineup. Two factors made the difference: the strong holds for the top two films are much better than usual for the end of summer. “The Butler” is down less than 50% from its heavily-hyped $4.8 million opening day, likely closer to a 40% drop for the weekend, with “We’re
the Millers at $4 million, down less than 30%.  And though their returns were variable, the three new openers this weekend should end in the top six, while the best of last year’s three new entries was only #8. This suggests distributors felt a bit more confident this year in placing appropriate films in this non-prime date.

Focus Features released the previous two films in director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy (“Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), in both cases opening in fewer than 1,000 theaters. “Fuzz” opened in 2007 at 825 theaters for $2.1 million its initial day, for a per screen average of $2,567. Opening at almost twice as many screens. “The World’s End” grossed $3.5 million, with a PSA not far behind ($2,249) despite the much wider break. The weekend gross, which should approach $10 million, will end up not far behind that of Wright’s much bigger budget “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” which Focus’ parent company Universal opened in 2010 to a $10.6 million weekend at 2,820 theaters. One day isn’t definitive, but despite the supposedly bad weekend, “The World’s End” could end up being Wright’s biggest grossing film domestically.

Sony’s “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (from its Screen Gems genre-release division) opened on Wednesday to get a couple extra days of vacation matinees (though many schools have already started), with yesterday’s gross of $3.1 million bringing its three-day take to $7.9 million. With a $60 million production cost, this is another problem picture for Sony, though not with the initial expense of some of their other summer releases. This is a case where the end of summer and its dwindling returns won’t help.

Lionsgate’s “You’re Next” was #5 for the day at just under $3 million. A low-budget acquisition at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival Midnight section (whose selections are nearly all released, but usually before two years have past), it likely will be passed by Disney’s “Planes” for the full weekend. In a summer where a couple of lower budget horror films showed strength (“The Purge” and especially “The Conjuring”), this is a relative disappointment for reliable Lionsgate, but comes at lower risk and less than the usual marketing cost.

The other new entry in the top 10 (at #10) was Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” (Sony Pictures Classics) which jumped to 1,283 theaters, the widest ever for a Woody Allen film, although that statistic (and the relatively higher gross for this and “Midnight in Paris”) is in part because of far more theaters today than in the “Annie Hall” era. The gross for the day, a bit under $1.2 million, shows the film performing (based on PSA in similar theater totals) at about 60% of the strength of the massively successful “Midnight.” which in 10 months of non-stop play took in $56 million. “Jasmine” at this point looks like a $30-35 million film ultimately, with later awards-related re-releasing possibly boosting it. This would be a solid accomplishment for this mostly serious drama with far less guaranteed general audience appeal than most of Allen’s most successful films.

The 7-9 slots were taken by Sony’s “Elysium,” and two fast falling sequels, Fox’s “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and “Kick-Ass 2,”

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