Box office preview: 'The Butler' prepared to hold off 'You're Next' and 'Mortal Instruments'

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Image Credit: Corey Ransberg

After a full week atop the chart, The Butler should serve a second helping of box office dollars this weekend. Although three new movies are entering the fray (and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is getting a wide expansion), the summer movie season is waning. Kids are back in school, families are back from vacation, and consumers are saving their movie-going budgets for glossy fall releases. Typically, studios dump their worst fare in the late August-September box office dead zone, but two of this weekend’s releases, You’re Next and The World’s End, have earned some of the best reviews of the year. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to drive them to big box office success.

Here’s how the weekend might play out:

1. The Butler – $16 million
Thanks to excellent word-of-mouth, Oscar buzz, and the lack of any new dramas for a mature audience competing, The Butler should hold up quite well in its second weekend. Over this weekend in 2011, The Help dipped only 23 percent, but The Butler hasn’t generated the groundswell of positive buzz that The Help did, and it may fall by a slightly steeper 35 percent to $16 million, which would yield a $50 million total. Not bad considering the Weinstein film cost just $30 million.

2. We’re the Millers – $12 million
Warner Bros.’ $37 million drug smuggling comedy fell just 32 percent last weekend, and it’s prepping to drive across the $100 million border very soon. It won’t do that this weekend, but Millers may dip by about 30 percent to $12 million, good for $89 million total.

3. You’re Next – $11.5 million
Horror films are a low-risk, high-reward, and (for the most part) consistent sell at the box office — and no studio has tapped into the horror genre better than Lionsgate. Still, their latest acquisition, the bloody slasher flick You’re Next, doesn’t seem to be exciting audiences as much as The Conjuring, which has earned $129.2 million since its July debut. Lionsgate’s marketing campaign, in some ways, has been too smart for its own good. Its nifty movie poster tie-ins and high-concept masks have made the story seem more obscure than straightforward. Fortunately, horror fans and young people dependably turn out for gory affairs, and You’re Next could score about $11.5 million in its first three days.

4. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – $10.5 million
After a woefully weak $3 million Wednesday launch, the YA-adaptation seems headed for the same box office graveyard as this spring’s misfires The Host ($26.6 million) and Beautiful Creatures ($19.5 million). Reviews for the $60 million Sony production are rough, and although most teens don’t care too much about critics’ opinions, those reactions certainly won’t help the film take off over the weekend. City of Bones, based on the popular series of novels by Cassandra Clare, could falter with a $10.5 million weekend, which would give the project only $16 million in its first five days.

5. Planes – $8.5 million
Another weekend without family competition should help Planes descend by a slim 35 percent to $8.5 million. The $50 million Disney animation will have earned just shy of $60 million by Sunday night.

The World’s End may break into the Top 5, but I’d bet the British pub crawl comedy finishes just outside the upper ranks. The Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright collaboration will likely perform better than their previous comedies, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which earned $13.5 million and $23.6 million, respectively. But British humor’s appeal is limited. The World’s End, which cost about $20 million to produce (or “$4 million shy of double what Hot Fuzz cost,” according to Pegg), might earn about $8 million this weekend. Distributor Focus will no doubt hope that the film’s sterling reviews help it endure through September.


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