Box Office: ‘The Butler’ Looks to Serve Up $18 Million Weekend

'You're Next,' 'Mortal Instruments' expected to gross in the low teens in three days

The Butler Forest Whitaker

Can “The Butler” do it again? Despite three wide releases entering the market, the Weinstein Co.’s holdover “Lee DanielsThe Butler” looks to claim its second box office victory, after a solid $24 million opening last weekend. If the film holds comparably to past pics like “The Help,” it would gross approximately $18 million.

Though comedy holdover “We’re the Millers” is tracking ahead of new entries, among the weekend’s openers, Lionsgate’s horror pic “You’re Next” and Sony-Screen Gems’ “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” should do best with grosses in the low teens in three days. “City of Bones” launched Wednesday, earning $3 million. The adaptation of the young adult novel should collect around $18 million in five days.

Meanwhile, Focus Features’ spoof comedy “The World’s End,” from the creators of “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead,” is tracking in the high-single digits.

Other than “The Butler,” the one to watch this weekend will be Sony Pictures Classics’ “Blue Jasmine,” which expands to 1,283 locations. The film has gained considerable steam in the past few weeks having grossed north of $10 million domestically. Sony Classics really will test the pic’s playability in commercial plexes in smaller U.S. markets.

As of mid-morning Wednesday, “The Butler” was leading in advanced ticket sales, according to Fandango, with “Mortal Instruments” tracking second, followed by Warner Bros.-New Line’s “We’re the Millers.” That pic has been doing boffo business now in its third week, with more than $76 million domestically.

The holdover presence of “Butler” and “Millers” is consistent with how well-received adult dramas can play during this time of year, after a tentpole-laden summer.

In 2010, “The Help” successfully broadened its aud base to multiple demographics and ethnicities, falling just 23% in its second frame. By comparison, “The Help” bowed with just $2 million more than “The Butler” opening weekend.

Last weekend, Weinstein reported that “The Butler” earned 48% of its opening from Caucasians, with African-Americans contributing 39% of the gross.

Lionsgate targeted Hispanics and African-Americans with its marketing of “You’re Next,” as well as general horror fans by sponsoring TV programs popular with that group. Lionsgate acquired the film at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival but had to delay the release when Lionsgate bought Summit in January 2012.

“Mortal Instruments,” which Germany’s Constantin Film produced for $60 million, is based on the Cassandra Clare-penned novel about a teen girl (played by Lily Collins), who discovers she’s the descendant of a demon-killing family lineage. Sony acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film last year. Its sequel, “City of Ashes,” is slatted to begin production this fall, with Collins and helmer Harald Zwart returning.

Focus, meanwhile, anticipates “The World’s End” to gross around three times its opening, a multiple comparable to “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Edgar Wright’s spoof, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is well-timed after the summer’s onslaught of apocalyptic-themed pics.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co. releases its Martin Scorsese-presented action film “The Grandmaster” at seven locations. Cinedigm, which normally specializes in multi-platform VOD releases, is bowing SXSW audience winner “Short Term 12” with a theatrical-only release in four locations.