The Butler Forest Whitaker

Robust frame keeps summer box office at record pace

The Weinstein Co.’s “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” cleaned up at the domestic box office this weekend, overperforming with an estimated $25 million in three days, while Universal’s “Kick-Ass 2″ delivered a soft $13.6 million domestically, not strong enough even to claim second place.

Holding very well in its sophomore outing, Warner Bros.-New Line’s R-rated comedy “We’re the Millers,” down just 33%, outgrossed “Kick-Ass 2″ handily, with an estimated $17.8 million. The holdover continues its steady march to nine figures, cuming nearly $70 million after only 12 days of release.

Tying with “Kick-Ass,” Sony’s “Elysium” fell a respectable 54% in its second frame, bringing the pic’s Stateside 10-day cume to nearly $56 million.

Total domestic B.O. stayed relatively flat with last year, when “The Expendables 2″ debuted with more than $28 million.

SEE ALSO: Film Review: ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’

The year-over-year hold virtually ensures summer box office will hit record heights, with pundits estimating May-September totals to reach as high as $4.8 billion. The previous summer record of $4.4 billion was set in 2012.

Also bowing this weekend, Open Road’s Steve Jobs $12.5 million-biopic, “Jobs,” disappointed with an estimated $6.7 million. Meanwhile, Relativity Media’s thriller “Paranoia,” which IM Global and Demarest Films co-financed for $35 million, did even worse, grossing a paltry $3.5 million through Sunday.

At the weekend’s specialty box office, Sony Pictures Classics saw another healthy expansion for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” which took in an estimated $2.4 million from 229 locations, lifting its domestic cume to $9.5 million. Pic expands Friday to at least 800 playdates.

Sony Classics also bowed femme-targeted comedy “Austenland” at four locations in New York and L.A., where it averaged a mediocre $10,685 per screen. IFC Films launched Western drama “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” at three playdates, averaging just $9,600 per screen.

Help wanted: ‘Butler’ looking for younger auds

The success of “The Butler” this weekend, in particular, comes only two years after “The Help” beat expectations, with just $20 million. That pic, however, outgrossed its opening by nearly nine-fold, a benchmark standard for any film this time of year.

“The Butler” needs to broaden its base to younger audiences to achieve a similar multiple. Pic earned more than three-fourths of its opening from auds over 35.

“We have such a clear playing field for a month-and-a-half that we should have great legs,” said Weinstein distribution prexy Erik Lomis. “I think thematically the film plays better to adults, but you’ll see younger kids soon discovering the film.”

“The Butler,” which cost in the high-$20 millions, scored well above average in exit polls, with a diverse spread of theaters across the country contributing strong grosses. Proportionally, the film played strongest in Washington, D.C., though it also did well across the Bible Belt.

While under-25 auds were the core demo for “Kick-Ass 2,” the film likely was affected by the better-than-expected hold for “We’re the Millers,” which also skewed best toward young men.

SEE ALSO: Film Review: ‘Kick-Ass 2’

“Kick-Ass 2,” which was financed independently for $28 million, fell significantly short of its predecessor’s near-$20 million opening in 2010. In fact, it was the success of the first film that prompted, in part, Universal to release the film during the summer.

“This is the kind of strategy we like going forward,” said U distribution prexy Nikki Rocco, “but this was a very inexpensive risk to take.”

Domestic

Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Locations; Per-theater average; Cume*; Percentage change

  1. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (1): $25.0; 2,933; $8,527; $25.0; –
  2. We’re the Millers (2): $17.8; 3,325; $5,347; $69.5; -33%
  3. Elysium (2): $13.6; 3,284; $4,141; $55.9; -54%
  4. Kick-Ass 2 (1): $13.6; 2,940; $4,615; $13.6; –
  5. Planes (2): $13.1; 3,716; $3,536; $45.1; -41%
  6. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2): $8.4; 3,080; $2,719; $38.9; -42%
  7. Jobs (1): $6.7; 2,381; $2,814; $6.7; –
  8. 2 Guns (3): $5.6; 2,471; $2,255; $59.2; -50%
  9. The Smurfs 2 (3): $4.6; 2,349; $1,958; $56.9; -51%
  10. The Wolverine (4): $4.4; 2,058; $2,150; $120.5; -45%

Overseas

Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Territories; Screens; Int’l cume*; Global cume*; Percentage change

  1. Elysium (2): $22.0; 41; 4,640; $37.7; $93.6; +102%
  2. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2): $21.8; 36; 5,576; $36.5; $75.4; +122%
  3. Pacific Rim (6): $20.0; 58; 5,500; $286.0; $384.4; -39%
  4. The Smurfs 2 (3): $20.0; 66; 8,550; $150.0; $206.9; -42%
  5. Despicable Me 2 (9): $19.5; 26; 6,300; $435.2; $781.2; +55%

*in millions of $

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