That was enough to lead all films on a late August weekend known as a dumping ground for studios following their summer blockbusters and before the start of the fall movie-going season. Daniels' historical drama about a long-serving White House butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, last weekend opened with $24.6 million for the Weinstein Co.
Three new releases failed to catch on. The teen fantasy "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," adapted from the popular young adult book series, opened tepidly in third with $9.3 million on the weekend and $14 million since opening Wednesday. With franchise hopes, Sony Screen Gems has already started production on a sequel, again starring Lily Collins as a New York teenager who discovers she has mystical powers.
Edgar Wright's pub-crawl-gone-wrong comedy "The World's End" opened with $8.9 million for Focus Features. That was a better start for "The World's End," which stars Simon Pegg, than Wright's last film, 2007's "Hot Fuzz." It opened with $5.8 million. Playing in 1,549 theaters, "The World's End" did its business in less than half the theaters of "The Butler" or "Mortal Instruments."
Despite good reviews, Lionsgate's home-invasion horror flick "You're Next" opened weakly with $7.1 million.
With a cumulative total of $52.3 million, "The Butler" is headed for a domestic haul of $100 million. It has followed the release pattern of another movie about race and domestic service: the 2011 drama "The Help," also released in August. The Weinstein Co. hopes that "The Butler" will similarly lead to Oscar nominations.
Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com, attributed the success of "The Butler" particularly to the marketing power of Winfrey and a savvy choice of a release date with little competition.
"This is a film that you wouldn't want to open in June or July," said Dergarabedian. "The release date that the Weinstein Co. picked absolutely paid off for them."
In its third week of release, Warner Bros.' R-rated road trip comedy "We're the Millers," starring Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston, continued to thrive. It took in $13.5 million over the weekend, bringing its overall total to $91.7 million.
Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" became his widest release ever. Sony Pictures Classics expanded Allen's drama of a ruined socialite starring Cate Blanchett to 1,283 theaters. It made $4.3 million over the weekend after earning more than $10 million in four weeks of limited release.
The 3-D release of Universal's "Jurassic Park," which opened in North America in April, led the overseas market with $30 million over the weekend, most of that from its opening in China.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.
1. "Lee Daniels' The Butler," $17 million.
2. "We're the Millers," $13.5 million ($8.3 million international).
3. "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," $9.3 million.
4. "The World's End" $8.9 million.
5. "Planes," $8.6 million ($5.9 million international).
6. "Elysium," $7.1 million ($20 million international).
7. "You're Next," $7.1 million.
8. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," $5.2 million ($18.4 million international).
9. "Blue Jasmine," $4.3 million.
10. "Kick-Ass 2," $4.3 million ($7.3 million international).
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "Jurassic Park," $30 million.
2. "Elysium," $20 million.
3. "Monsters University," $19.6 million.
4. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," $18.4 million.
5. "The Conjuring," $17.7 million.
6. "Now You See Me," $12.5 million.
7. "Smurfs 2," $11.9 million.
8. "Despicable Me 2," $10.9 million.
9. "We're the Millers," $8.3 million.
10. "Hide and Seek," $8.1 million.