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Box Office Top Ten: 'The Butler,' 'We're the Millers' Lead Solid Late Summer Weekend; 'Mortal Instruments' Another Sony Also-Ran

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 25, 2013 at 7:36PM

The end of season returns show that audiences can be satisfied with something beyond just the more hyped franchise entries that dominated most of the last few months, many of which failed to satisfy over a period when increased total grosses came with higher budgets. "The Butler" and "We're the Millers" -- both likely $100 million-plus pictures -- are significant August hits, with neither film considered typical summer fare.
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Lee Daniels' The Butler

It's the dog days of August, the final official week of the summer season, but despite that the top ten this weekend jumped over last year ($86 million, up $11 million). Two strong holdovers -- "The Butler" and "We're the Millers" -- held the top two spots, and the three new openers all placed better than the top new film the same weekend last year (when "Premium Rush" placed only #8).

The end of season returns show that audiences can be satisfied with something beyond just the more hyped franchise entries that dominated most of the last few months, many of which failed to satisfy over a period when increased total grosses came with higher budgets. "The Butler" and "We're the Millers" -- both likely $100 million-plus pictures -- are significant August hits, with neither film considered typical summer fare.

1. Lee Daniels' The Butler (Weinstein) Week 2 - Last Weekend #1

$17,018,000  (-31%) in 3,110 theaters (+177); PSA (per screen average): $5,472; Cumulative: $52,275,000

"The Butler" dropped just 31% to take the number one spot for the second week in a row for the first time for the Weinsteins since 1994, when Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" also launched in the last two weeks of August. 

The Weinsteins are masters of the slow rollout and adding screens to maximize revenues and awards attention. Most of their films that have grossed over $100 million don't make it to #1 for any given weekend. This pattern for them is unusual, but they banked on the combined power of subject matter and Oprah to propel strong word of mouth for Lee Daniels' historical multi-decade story. This is an unusually small drop for a second week, and suggests that the film could be heading to a $100 million-plus domestic take.

The drop, though small, is more than "The Help," which dropped its second weekend (23%) from a slightly bigger opening, also in late August. But that is a minor issue for a film that has clearly gone beyond awareness into popular acceptance.

What comes next: The following weeks are among the weakest of the year, but this looks good to run through September in the top 10.

2. We're the Millers (Warner Bros.) Week 3 - Last Weekend: #2

$13,500,000 (-25%) in 3,445 theaters (+120); PSA: $3,919; Cumulative: $91,740,000

Holding even better than "The Butler," Warner Bros.' unexpected late summer comedy hit is a strong #2, grossing more than #1 film "The Expendables 2" a year ago. With a low budget of $37 million and international just getting under way, this looks like it with easily outgross "The Hangover 3" domestically (which grossed $112 million but cost $103 million before marketing). 

What comes next: With summer almost over, this likely won't threaten "The Heat" as top comedy of the season, but it now looks certain the top two laffers boast female leads: Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy, and Jennifer Aniston, respectively.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Lee Daniels' The Butler , Blue Jasmine, The Weinstein Co., The Weinstein Company


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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.