Box Office Guru Wrapup: The Butler Holds on to Top Spot

Plus, the three new wide releases all open below $10 million.

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This weekend, the historical drama Lee Daniels' The Butler easily won a second term as commander-in-chief of the North American box office, beating out three new releases that each opened in the single-digit millions. Forest Whitaker's White House saga declined by only 31% in its sophomore session to an estimated $17M, pushing the ten-day total to an impressive $52.3M and putting it on track to break the $100M mark and become one of the top five grossing films ever for its distributor.

The Weinstein Co. release held up almost as well as The Help from two years ago which dipped by only 23% in its second frame to $20M. That film, which also held the number one spot over these same two weekends in 2011, opened on a Wednesday and banked a larger $71.3M in the 12 days ending with its second weekend. It suffered no decline over the Labor Day frame so Butler is likely to post another strong result next weekend, which is a session when moviegoers catch up on films they've been hearing about but haven't seen yet. Strong word-of-mouth, positive reviews, and weak competition have been helping Butler and should continue to assist the hit film in the weeks to come.

Posting the smallest decline of any film in the top ten was the sleeper hit comedy We're the Millers which grossed an estimated $13.5M dipping only 25% in its third weekend. Warner Bros. has taken in a solid $91.7M to date and should have its fifth $100M+ grosser of the summer before Labor Day.

The critically-panned young adult fantasy adventure The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones stumbled on opening weekend, debuting to an estimated $9.3M from a very wide release in 3,118 locations for a weak $2,983 average. The PG-13 film based on the popular novel collected a disappointing total of $14.1M over the five days since its Wednesday launch.

Sony's effects-heavy release played primarily to its target of young women and teen girls. Studio research showed that 68% of the crowd was female and 46% was under 21. The CinemaScore grade was a moderate B+. Films slotted into the final two weeks of August are generally turkeys that studios don't believe will perform in the first place so a large opening weekend was never expected.

The British comedy The World's End debuted in fourth place with an estimated $8.9M from 1,549 theaters for a respectable $5,773 average which was tops among all wide releases this weekend. The Focus title got a wider release than director Edgar Wright's last film Hot Fuzz which bowed to $5.8M from 825 locations for a stronger $7,089 average. Both films, along with cult hit Shaun of the Dead, star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Reviews were stellar for End and given the crowded marketplace and end-of-summer slowdown, the opening was commendable. The R-rated film earned a decent B+ grade from CinemaScore and played 58% male and 71% under 35.

Off 36% in fifth place was Disney's animated film Planes with an estimated $8.6M for a sum to date of $59.6M. Among late summer kidpics, it should end up ahead of The Smurfs 2 and about even with Turbo. The sci-fi actioner Elysium followed with an estimated $7.1M, down 48%, for a $69.1M cume. Overseas business is solid for the Sony title with an additional $70M taken in to date.

The new horror film You're Next was next with a seventh place opening grossing an estimated $7.1M. Lionsgate averaged a soft $2,893 from 2,437 locations. Reviews were very positive for a fright flick, but audiences were not sold on it. Those that did open their wallets gave it a B- grade from CinemaScore indicating the usual path ahead for the genre.

The fantasy sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters dropped 41% to an estimated $5.2M lifting Fox's total to $48.3M. Universal's own late-summer sequel Kick-Ass 2 fell apart in its second weekend tumbling 68% to an estimated $4.3M. The super hero pic has banked just $22.4M and may end with about $30M, or more than a third below the $48.1M of its 2010 predecessor.

Also grossing an estimated $4.3M was Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine which expanded aggressively from 229 to 1,283 locations, putting it into the top ten for the first time. The Sony Classics release averaged a lukewarm $3,352 but has collected a solid $14.8M to date. With a long holiday weekend coming up plus moviegoing shifting to adult fare in September, the acclaimed pic is well-positioned to remain a factor in the coming weeks.

The Weinstein Co. generated only moderate results from its Wong Kar Wai film The Grandmaster which had attached a "Martin Scorsese presents" credit to boost interest. The stylish martial arts epic platformed in New York and Los Angeles to an estimated $132,000 from just seven theaters for a decent $18,857 average. It was not a stellar enough result to expect a strong expansion in the weeks to come. Reviews were generally positive. Grandmaster goes nationwide into several hundred theaters this Friday and will face three more new wide releases cramming into theaters.

Elsewhere below the top ten, the animated smash Despicable Me 2 crossed double milestones over the weekend by surpassing both the $350M domestic and $800M worldwide marks. Universal's global cume is now a towering $805.8M making it the seventh highest-grossing animated film of all-time. The studio also stated that the Gru sequel was its most profitable film ever. Of course to verify that, studios need to start reporting honest cost figures (including marketing spends) and not just revenue figures. The monster flick Pacific Rim inched closer to the century club raising its cume to $99.2M and may break $100M shortly after Labor Day.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $85.3M which was up 12% from last year when The Expendables 2 remained at number one with $13.4M; and up 23% from 2011 when The Help stayed in the top spot with $14.5M in its third weekend.

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