Weekend Box Office (August 16 - 18, 2013)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The annual late-summer funk hit the North American box office with only one of the frame's four new wide releases connecting with audiences. The potential Oscar contender The Butler surprised many with its number one opening grossing $24.6M, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 film averaged a strong $8,400 from 2,933 theaters and was the only wide release this weekend to gross more than $20M or generate an average above $6,000.

Starring Forest Whitaker, Butler took advantage of stellar reviews and solid awards buzz and also tapped into co-star Oprah Winfrey's massive fan base and promotional power. And the road ahead looks bright as new releases over the next couple of weeks do not look to be too distracting for this film's upscale adult audience plus the glowing A grade from CinemaScore indicates strong word-of-mouth will spread.

Butler's results were incredibly close to those seen two years ago by The Help, another mid-August period film about African-Americans serving the elite. That film opened to $26M at the same time of year, earned strong reviews and Oscar talk, and had a great CinemaScore (an even better A+). Help went on to finish with $169.7M, four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and a win for Best Supporting Actress. There is talk of Winfrey winning in that same category this time while Whitaker could be in the race for Best Actor.

Holding steady in second place and displaying terrific staying power was the pot smuggling comedy We're the Millers which dipped only 32% in its second weekend to $18M. Warner Bros. has collected an impressive $69.7M in ten days and could be headed for a $110-120M domestic final. Critics hated Millers, but paying audiences have found it to be a very entertaining option during the dog days of summer.

Matt Damon's sci-fi outing Elysium fell by 54% in its sophomore round - understandable for a sci-fi film - to $13.7M putting Sony at $56M after ten days. Look for the futuristic flick to end up with around $85M.

With nothing new opening for children this weekend, Disney's animated film Planes held up well declining by 40% to $13.4M in fourth place. The colorful toon has banked $45.3M so far and could end up with about $75M.

Opening close behind was the super hero sequel Kick-Ass 2 which disappointed with $13.3M. The Universal release averaged a mediocre $4,535 from 2,940 locations and grossed 32% less than the $19.8M that the first Kick-Ass took in when it bowed in April 2010. Though not a stellar number, it did build a cult following over the years so the follow-up was expected to draw at least the same size audience if not a little bigger. But competition was intense, the target audience has already had more than enough summer action movies, and reviews were negative.

The $28M production played, as expected, to a young male crowd. Studio research showed that 63% of the audience was male and 58% was under 25. A B+ CinemaScore showed that fans were moderately pleased with the product, but the huge 29% Friday-to-Saturday tumble indicates an extremely front-loaded run.

The kid-friendly fantasy adventure Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters fared well in its sophomore frame dropping 39% to $8.8M. For a sequel it was an encouraging decline, but for a big-budget actioner the overall results are still weak. The Fox release has collected only $39.3M and seems headed for a $55-60M final.

Moviegoers didn't buy into Ashton Kutcher playing a genius as the biopic Jobs flopped in its opening weekend grossing $6.7M from 2,381 theaters for a poor $2,820 average. The Open Road release about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs earned negative reviews and never really energized paying movie audiences who gave it a lackluster B- grade from CinemaScore.

Dropping by 48% to eighth place was the Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg pic 2 Guns with $5.8M giving Universal $59.5M to date. Sony's kidpic The Smurfs 2 followed with $4.8M, off 49%, for a cume of $57.1M. The Wolverine rounded out the top ten with $4.5M, down 44%, putting Fox at $120.6M.

Utterly ignored by moviegoers was the new corporate thriller Paranoia which debuted outside of the top ten to $3.5M from 2,459 locations for a dismal $1,435 average for Relativity.

The top ten films grossed $113.6M which was down 8% from last year when The Expendables 2 debuted at number one with $28.6M; but up 17% from 2011 when The Help climbed into the top spot with $20M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, The Butler opened ahead of my $20M forecast while Kick-Ass 2 came in well below my $22M prediction. Both Jobs and Paranoia fell short of my respective projections of $9M and $8M.

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Watch the trailer for Thor: The Dark World.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when You're Next, The World's End, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones all open.

# Title Aug 16 - 18 Aug 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Butler $ 24,637,312 2,933 1 $ 8,400 $ 24,637,312 Weinstein Co.
2 We're the Millers 17,964,164 26,419,396 -32.0 3,325 2 5,403 69,697,649 Warner Bros.
3 Elysium 13,686,832 29,807,393 -54.1 3,284 2 4,168 56,001,138 Sony
4 Planes 13,388,534 22,232,291 -39.8 3,716 2 3,603 45,338,402 Disney
5 Kick-Ass 2 13,332,955 2,940 1 4,535 13,332,955 Universal
6 Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters 8,753,723 14,401,054 -39.2 3,080 2 2,842 39,282,381 Fox
7 Jobs 6,713,900 2,381 1 2,820 6,713,900 Open Road
8 2 Guns 5,806,850 11,249,145 -48.4 2,471 3 2,350 59,456,195 Universal
9 The Smurfs 2 4,769,626 9,328,495 -48.9 2,349 3 2,030 57,081,815 Sony
10 The Wolverine 4,518,631 8,024,404 -43.7 2,058 4 2,196 120,551,787 Fox
11 Despicable Me 2 3,908,735 5,915,650 -33.9 1,818 7 2,150 346,114,855 Universal
12 The Conjuring 3,885,296 6,627,356 -41.4 2,001 5 1,942 127,838,166 Warner Bros.
13 Paranoia 3,528,376 2,459 1 1,435 3,528,376 Relativity
14 Blue Jasmine 2,291,183 2,345,407 -2.3 229 4 10,005 9,421,764 Sony Classics
15 Grown Ups 2 1,708,266 3,645,565 -53.1 1,241 6 1,377 127,393,696 Sony
16 Turbo 1,078,888 2,351,120 -54.1 759 5 1,421 77,658,168 Fox
17 Chennai Express 893,457 2,220,497 -59.8 190 2 4,702 4,014,657 UTV
18 The Heat 881,561 1,966,274 -55.2 691 8 1,276 155,473,193 Fox
19 The Way, Way Back 737,363 1,491,433 -50.6 457 7 1,613 17,850,603 Fox Searchlight
20 Pacific Rim 713,141 1,550,226 -54.0 444 6 1,606 98,389,608 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 83,009,797 $ 104,109,279 -20.3
Top 10 113,572,527 137,650,749 -17.5
Top 20 133,198,793 154,356,370 -13.7
Top 20 vs. 2012 133,198,793 134,081,871 -0.7

Last Updated: August 19, 2013 at 10:00PM ET

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