Weekend Wrap-Up

Summer Box Office Doesn’t End – It Implodes

By John Hamann

August 25, 2013

He's not talking about the box office, believe it or not.

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Almost like clockwork, the summer box office is not only over, any sense of it has disappeared, as three new films make few waves at the box office this weekend. If this is August, I am frightened of what’s coming in September.

This weekend is almost a mirror image of what went on at the box office in late August last year. A year ago, three new films opened, and all failed to make an impact at the box office with the highest newbie coming in eighth with only $6 million. This year, we have higher placements and better numbers for the openers, but the mood is the same. Summer is over, and all the shiny product has been put away until at least Thanksgiving. New releases this weekend include an Edgar Wright film, The World’s End, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, another YA novel adaption trying to be Twilight; and You’re Next, a horror release from Lionsgate that was trapped on the shelf while the company merged with Summit Entertainment (it was made with string and cotton balls so no one at Lionsgate noticed it was missing). The highlights of the weekend are the holdovers, as Lee Daniels’ The Butler and We’re The Millers continue to strut their stuff.

Our number one film for the second straight weekend is Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the Forest Whittaker/Oprah Winfrey drama that debuted to $24.6 million last weekend. This weekend, the hold is fair, as the well-reviewed film took in another $17 million from 3,110 venues, up 117 screens from last weekend. The Butler dropped 31%, which is decent - but not a spectacular hold. The 41 producers of The Butler will be happy, though, as the $30 million Weinstein release has now earned $52.3 million. With the hold this weekend, The Butler should easily become a $75-$85 million earner domestically, so it will see a solid return on investment.


The Weinstein Company was shrewd with their release strategy for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, using as much free press as possible, as well as a faith-based campaign that may be driving the non-traditional moviegoer into theatres. TWC also used the same point in the calendar that Disney released The Help, the $170 million domestic earner that also dealt with race relations. It also repeated at number one (three times) over the weekends of late August in 2011, and eventually delivered an Oscar to Octavia Spencer. Given the success at the box office, I would expect The Weinstein Company to push Forest Whittaker as an Oscar contender this year. Can The Butler hold for a third straight weekend? Maybe, but will depend on how many teens flock to the One Direction movie next weekend.

Finishing second this weekend – and for the third weekend in a row - is We’re The Millers from Warner Bros. The Millers earned another $13.5 million this weekend, dropping a terrific 25%. Somewhat surprisingly, The Millers will likely cross the $100 million mark next weekend, despite costing the studio only $37 million to bring to the screen, but before a fairly hefty marketing budget. Regardless, this is a huge win for the studio, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, who is more known for his work on Saturday Night Live than in movies. This is another film that was well placed on the release calendar by its studio, and is reaping the rewards. There is a strong possibility that the Millers could be in second for a fourth straight session next weekend, as Labor Day openers look weak. So far, We’re the Millers has managed to earn $91.7 million.

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