Weekend B.O. Aug. 16-18 (How 'The Butler' Kicked 'Kick-Ass 2's' Ass)
Photo Credit: S & A
Box Office

Weekend B.O. Aug. 16-18 (How 'The Butler' Kicked 'Kick-Ass 2's' Ass)


According to all the box office predictors, Kick-Ass 2 was going to be the No 1

film this weekend. Meanwhile, I was telling anyone who would listen to me (both of them) that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was going to beat its ass. And guess who

was right?

The predictions were that the film would most likely come

in second in the mid-teens around $16-17

million. My guess was more like $20-22

million. And it turns out that I was off a couple of million since the film came in

with $25 million, which is equal to

the film’s original production budget.

So why was I so sure? A few things:



– The

Weinstein Company ran maybe one of the best, if not the best, advance PR

hype for any film of theirs in years. You couldn’t go anywhere or see or read anything

in the media (including S & A) that didn’t include interviews with Oprah, Forest Whitaker and Daniels, or some segment or story about the film’s narrative on TV. It was omnipresent and constant. I even saw three different segments

about the film on the BBC News channel, and not on some weekend arts show, but the news channel. And I’ve never seen the BBC News report about

any film on its newscast – American, British or foreign. The film also was helped

greatly by a heavy TV ad campaign, especially in the morning and afternoon hours

when women are watching the most.


Thanks to the PR campaign, the film started to develop that all important momentum,

that “I’ve got to see it” buzz, which

Kick-Ass 2 didn’t have at all. Who was talking about KA2 before it came out?

Did anyone even know it was coming out this weekend or did they care?



– TWC was smart to move The Butler’s original release date from October to mid-August.

The big summer movies have come and gone, and late August to mid Sept is usually

a dead zone for new films. Studios tend to release films that they have little

confidence in and don’t expect to do well at the box office. That gives The Butler

practically no competition from other films, especially dramas, for a full month, until late September, when the

fall film season starts in earnest.


Audience – One constant thing that box office pundits consistently do, is underestimate the older film-going audience. Their attitude is that, only 14-25

year olds go see films, and anyone over 40 just stays home, or doesn’t exist.

While it’s true that older film-goers don’t go to films as often as younger

people, they definitely do go; and when they do, they come out in force. And The

Butler, because of it historical subject matter and cast of familiar names, is

exactly the kind of film that will make them do that.

I tend to discount somewhat the Oprah “factor” which some are

saying is one of the main reasons for the film’s success this weekend. Oprah has

never been, what one would say, a box office powerhouse (Beloved anyone?). Though

I admit that her presence in the film definitely gave it a “curiosity factor” that another actress in the role,

say like Angela Bassett, would not

have given it.

But the biggest hint to me on how the film would do happened last week, when I had a brief conversation with an older black woman in her early

70s, who told me that she couldn’t wait to see The Butler that weekend, adding that: “It’s going to be No.1 this weekend. Watch!

Whoa. I’ve never had a 73 year old person tell me her box

office predictions before, but it also indicated that she was very invested in

the film and was going to do what she could to make the film a success. I

suspect a lot of people felt the same way and went out to see the film.

I pegged the

film to do, perhaps, $75 million total, if it has strong legs for the next

few weeks, which I think it does. But

that was until last night, when a friend of mine told me he saw the film Friday

night, and the entire audience in the packed theater was crying at the end, both

black and white. He said that a white woman sitting next to him in the theater

actually grabbed his arm bawling her eyes out. As a result I’m moving up my

estimate to around $100 million.

Meanwhile Kick-Ass 2 under-performed, coming in at a surprising

4th place, and the other big release this

weekend, Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, pretty much fell flat. But

then again it’s a movie with Ashton Kutcher in the lead role. Need I say more?

1) Lee Daniels’ The Butler Wein. $25,010,000 

2) We’re the Millers WB $17,780,000 Total:$69,513,000 

3) Elysium TriS $13,600,000 Total:$55,914,000 

4) Kick-Ass 2 Uni. $13,568,000 

5) Planes BV $13,141,000 Total:$45,090,000 

6) Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Fox $8,375,000 Total:$38,904,000

7) Jobs ORF $6,700,000

8) 2 Guns Uni. $5,572,000 Total:$59,221,000 

9) The Smurfs 2 Sony $4,600,000  Total:$56,912,000 

10) The Wolverine Fox $4,425,000 Total:$120,458,000  

11) The Conjuring WB $3,910,000 Total:$127,863,000 

12) Despicable Me 2 Uni. $3,781,000 Total:$345,988,000 

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