By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 17, 2013 at 2:28PM
At the Friday box office, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" rose above expectations position to score an easy top spot in what was predicted to be a close race for the weekend with poorly-reviewed "Kick-Ass 2" (Universal). The Weinstein Co.'s well-hyped historical epic benefited from the controversy over its title and strong marketing, powered by TV personality Oprah Winfrey, as well as overall favorable reviews. Two other new films, 'Jobs' (Open Road) and 'Paranoia' (Relativity) lagged far behind, demonstrating limited audience appeal.
"The Butler"'s Friday gross of $8.3 million is more than the "The Help"'s $7.4 million Friday after the film had earned $10 million after a Wednesday opening. "The Butler" marks the fourth best Friday for the Weinstein Company (behind two Tarantino films and "Scary Movie 4"). The multifaceted company often opens its biggest grossing and awards contending films much more narrowly, including "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The King's Speech," which both passed $100 million after initially limited openings. "The Butler" was an obvious candidate for a wide opening, and the initial gross shows this was the right decision. It should total $25 million for the weekend.
"Kick-Ass 2" fell short of the opening day of its predecessor (Lionsgate), taking in $5.8 million, down from $7.6 million in 2010. It had been the early favorite to take the weekend with a $30 million take, but it lagged yesterday below predictions. Its #2 position -- bolstered by Thursday evening grosses -- could easily fall below "We're the Millers" for the whole weekend.
Warner Bros.' Jennifer Aniston-starring comedy fell only a bit over one third from last week, continuing its word of mouth-driven success--it was the top grosser for Monday-Thursday last week. "Elysium," Sony's action-sci-fi film (#1 last weekend) fell about 60% from last Friday to take fourth place. Disney's animated "Planes" took fifth for the day.
The Sundance-premiered "Jobs," starring Ashton Kutcher as the Apple co-founder, lagged at #6 with only $2.6 million, double what #10 "Paranoia," a thriller with Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford, which took in $1.3 million and might end up out of the top 10 when the whole weekend is counted, a rarity for a film released in over 2,000 theaters.
#7-9 were three quickly dropping films, "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" (20th Century-Fox), "Two Guns" (Universal) and "The Smurfs 2" (Sony), all three of which have proved disappointing, with none likely to get much past $65 million at most in total domestic gross.
Despite the strong take for "The Butler," the top 10 for the day lagged more than 10% behind last year ($36 million, down from $41). After last weekend's uptick, annual totals almost reached the year to date for 2013, but the hurdle of overtaking it continues to be a challenge.