Box office report: 'The Butler' repeats at No. 1, 'Mortal Instruments' flops

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Image Credit: Anne Marie Fox

For the second weekend in a row, Lee Daniels’ The Butler dished out major blows to the new arrivals at the late summer box office. The Weinstein drama, which stars Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, fell 31 percent to $17 million this weekend, bringing The Butler‘s gross to $52.3 million after ten days. The film isn’t raking in quite as much as 2011’s The Help, which had earned $57.2 million in its first ten days (though that film opened on a Wednesday, so that total accounts for only one weekend), and it won’t match The Help‘s $169.7 million finish. Still, if word-of-mouth keeps driving slim week-to-week declines, The Butler has a very good chance of reaching $100 million. Even if it just misses the century mark, the film will triple its $30 million budget domestically.

But The Butler wasn’t the only holdover to notch an impressive drop. We’re the Millers held up even better in its third weekend. The Jason Sudeikis/Jennifer Aniston collaboration fell only 25 percent to $13.5 million, which gives the pot smuggling comedy a smoking $91.7 million total. Millers is performing even better than Sudeikis’ and Aniston’s previous comedic offering, Horrible Bosses, which had earned $82.6 million at the same point in its run on the way to a $117 million final tally. Warner Bros.’ Millers won’t be able to surpass The Heat‘s $155.9 million gross to become the biggest comedy of the summer, but it could still catch up to Grown Ups 2‘s $128 million total — a phenomenal result for a film that cost $37 million. Sudeikis chose the right project to launch his post-SNL career.

Hollywood’s eternal quest to find another Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter proved fruitless yet again this weekend. The $60 million fantasy film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones misfired in its first five days in theaters, taking in just $14.1 million since its Wednesday debut — $9.3 million of which came in over the traditional weekend frame. The Sony-acquired film, adapted from Cassandra Clare’s popular series of novels, joins this year’s other YA adaptations, The Host ($26.6 million) and Beautiful Creatures ($19.5 million), as potential adventure franchises that badly undercut expectations. It remains to be seen whether City of Bones‘ dreadful debut will affect its potential sequel, The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes, which is currently set to start shooting in Toronto this September. Production company Constantin would have to feel very bullish about its international appeal to justify shelling out huge money on a follow-up — especially given City of Bones‘ weak critical reception and lukewarm “B+” CinemaScore grade.

In fourth place, critically beloved Brit import The World’s End earned a solid $8.9 million from 1,549 theaters, which yielded a nice $5,773 average. (Mortal Instruments and You’re Next opened much wider in 3,118 theaters and 2,437 theaters, respectively.) The film starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright is the final entry in their comedic Cornetto trilogy, which also includes cult favorites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End opened better than both of those films, which started with $3.3 million and $5.8 million, respectively — and given its excellent reviews, it could hold up well over Labor Day weekend. U.S. distributor Focus Features notes that crowds for the $20 million film were 58 percent male, 71 percent below the age of 35, and that 59 percent had a college degree. The World’s End earned an average “B+” CinemaScore grade, which isn’t entirely unsurprising given the differences in American and British humor.

Disney’s Planes dipped 36 percent in its third weekend to $8.6 million. The animated entry, which was originally intended as a direct-to-DVD release, has now earned $59.6 million against a $50 million budget. That’s a full $10 million less than Turbo had earned at the same point in its run, though the Fox film is considered a flop due to its $135 million budget. In Planes‘ case, Disney didn’t need the film to perform especially well to turn over a profit — especially given the endless merchandising opportunities it provides.

1. The Butler – $17.0 million
2. We’re the Millers – $13.5 million
3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – $9.3 million
4. The World’s End – $8.9 million
5. Planes – $8.6 million

Outside the Top 5, Lionsgate’s R-rated horror film You’re Next didn’t connect with viewers, and it slashed up only $7 million in its first three days. Typical horror films are an easy sell, but casual movie fans may have felt unengaged by the film’s high-concept marketing campaign, which featured tons of animal masks, but not a great sense of the story. Despite great reviews, You’re Next was issued an unenthusiastic “B–” CinemaScore.

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine expanded from 229 theaters to 1,283 theaters this weekend, and while the film did jump up to ninth place with $4.3 million (giving it a $14.8 million total), that aggressive expansion may end up limiting the Cate Blanchett vehicle’s box office potential. Jasmine‘s per theater average dissolved from last weekend’s $10,005 to a much weaker $3,352 this time around, which may discourage exhibitors from showing the buzzy Sony Pictures Classics film. If word-of-mouth spreads quickly about Blue Jasmine, though, it could perform very nicely over Labor Day weekend, though.

Next weekend, the teens should be very happy given the release of Getaway, which stars Selena Gomez alongside Ethan Hawke, and the concert film One Direction: This Is Us. Check back to EW to see whether either film can unseat The Butler over Labor Day.

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