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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

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 24, 2013 at 3:21PM

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.
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Simon Pegg in "The World's End"
Simon Pegg in "The World's End"

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.

Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

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.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, The World's End, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Lee Daniels' The Butler


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.