Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
August 20, 2013
Kim Hollis: Lee Daniels' The Butler finished at the top of the box office this weekend, taking in $24.6 million. What do you think about this result? Also, what do you think about its awards chances?
Jason Barney: This will end up being a pretty big success for the Weinstein Company, and there are a lot of shocked people wondering how this somewhat smaller release ended up winning the weekend. It’s bigger than that, though, as this becomes another example of a smaller film outperforming the competition and making the budget back within the first few days of release. While I don’t know if I would call it a trend, we have seen it a lot this summer. Now You See Me upstaged After Earth. The Purge did extremely well against returning films and The Internship. The Conjuring outpaced three new openers and was an instant success. Now we have The Butler, with a lower screen count than the next five films in the top ten, and going up against seven recent openers. The box office is fresh with a lot of new options for people and The Butler did exceptionally well. It will have made its budget back by early in the week, and then it will easily start to pay off the marketing costs.
This is a nice win for Forrest Whitaker, who has been a bit hit or miss. I think he is very recognizable, but audiences see him in projects like Repo Men or The Last Stand, which have not been the best career choices. This opening, and the likely strong holds The Butler is going to experience, will put him back on the map.
Brett Ballard-Beach: As has been noted elsewhere, there has been room for prestige projects to break out in August over the last few years (Julie & Julia, Eat Pray Love, The Help) and this follows the pattern of reaching out to the multiplex audiences who have either gotten burned out on action and superheroes by now, or tend to look for smaller "indie" films in general. Things like the ridiculous tussle over the title (which I now see is leading ignorant net commenters to proclaim that Lee Daniels is the height of Hollywood egotism run amok) and the stunt casting of familiar faces you wouldn't expect to see playing presidents and first ladies, certainly helped it to break out slightly above early predictions. Plus, unless there's a scene where the butler has to pee on one of the presidents to counteract a venomous jellyfish bite, there probably isn't any offensive or objectionable material to keep larger audiences at bay. An opening like this for a film that will continue to play with older audiences in weeks to come is a great start. I think it has an easy shot at a Best Actor nod, a decent chance at a Best Picture nom, but probably not much beyond that (though wouldn't it be great to be able to refer to one of Buffy's "Nerds of Doom" as an Oscar nominee?).