The two front runners for the top of the box office this weekend couldn't be more different.
One is "Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” a sweeping historical saga that takes on race in America, already is driving Oscar talk and features a megawatt cast that includes Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.
The other is "Kick-Ass 2,” the profane and gruesome comic-book tale of costumed young do-gooders trying to kill villains like The Mother F#&%*!.
The pseudo superheroes have a slight edge in tracking, but both are projected to land in the $20 million range for the three days.
That’s roughly double the projections for the Steve Jobs biopic "Jobs” and the corporate thriller "Paranoia,” this week's other two wide openers. Landing below $10 million will likely put them behind holdovers "Elysium” and "We’re the Millers,” which went 1-2 over last weekend, which also was packed with four new films.
The original "Kick-Ass” opened to $19 million in April of 2010 for Lionsgate, and went on to take in $96 million worldwide. It was a critical favorite and a hit in its DVD and download afterlife. That convinced Universal, which had handled some international territories on the first film, to back the sequel.
In "Kick-Ass 2," the three self-made superheroes from the original film — Kick Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist, (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse) — return, joined by a new wave of vigilante crusaders, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).
Parents, be clear this is not your typical superhero movie, so don't be tempted to bring little ones. It's violent enough that Carrey refused to do promo work after the filming. "I did 'Kickass' a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," he tweeted.
Young males are the target market. The critics are cool (46 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) but it’s sizzling on social media. It’s up to 44,000 Twitter mentions, way ahead of the roughly 32,000 another R-rated late-summer sequel, 2012’s "The Expendables 2,” had prior to its release, according to BoxOffice.com.
Jeff Wadlow ("Never Back Down”) wrote the screenplay, based on the comic book created by Mark Millar and John S. Romita, and replaces Matthew Vaughn as director. Vaughn produces, along with Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack and David Reid. It has a $28 million production budget.
"Kick-Ass 2" will be on roughly 2,800 screens.
The Weinstein Company is looking at the big picture with "Lee Daniels' "The Butler." Directed by Lee Daniels ("Precious”) and written by Danny Strong (HBO’s "Game Change”), it's certain to be in the Oscar discussion and will be in theaters for months.
Based on a true story, it looks at decades of America’s history through the character of a White House butler (Whitaker) who served under eight Presidents. Winfrey, in her first movie role in 15 years, plays his wife. David Oyelowo is drawing raves as his son.
A slew of presidents are portrayed, including Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Nixon (John Cusack), Kennedy (James Marsden), Johnson (Liev Schreiber) and Reagan (Alan Rickman). Lenny Kravitz, Jane Fonda and Terrence Howard also co-star.
Some critics have found the parade of presidents gimmicky, but the majority have loved it (85 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes).
A question mark is whether TWC’s pre-release legal spat with Warner Bros. over the name helps or hurts. The dispute resulted in headlines for weeks, but Weinstein had to shut down its website and Facebook page prior to being ordered to rename the film.
Mature and African-Americans moviegoers are expected to turn out in force, and the presence of Winfrey, with her huge following, provides an X-factor. But even without a big opening — the studio says it would be happy with the mid-teen millions — the PG-rated "The Butler” should show staying power.
Its production budget is around $30 million. It will be on more than 2,900 screens.
Ashton Kutcher plays the Apple, Inc., founder in the drama "Jobs,” which will be on roughly 2,000 screens for Open Road Films.
Most of his previous films have been comedies, and he’s never had a breakout box-office hit. His last lead role was in the romantic comedy "No Strings Attached,” which opened to $19 million and made $70 domestically in 2011.
Open Road has made a concerted effort to connect with the tech crowd with Silicon Valley screenings of "Jobs,” and it was the first movie trailer ever on Instagram. But its social media footprint isn’t what you’d expect.
It had roughly 4,900 Twitter mentions three days before its release; that’s better than the 2,890 that "The Social Network” had at a similar stage, but way lower than it should be for a film about a tech icon.
The PG-13-rated drama will be in 2,381 theaters.
Relativity Media is distributing IM Global's "Paranoia," a PG-13-rated tale of corporate intrigue directed by Robert Luketic (Killer").
Liam Hemsworth stars as a low-level employee at a powerful conglomerate forced to spy on his boss’ former mentor. The supporting cast is impressive, featuring Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford and Amber Heard.
"Paranoia" wasn’t screened for critics, rarely a good sign. The advertising campaign has been aggressive, but it hasn’t been able to gain much traction on social media. Its tweet count three days out was just over 1,000.
The screenplay was written by Jason Dean Hall ("Spread") from a previous draft by Barry Levy ("Vantage Point"), based on the novel by Joseph Finder.
It will be in roughly 2,400 theaters.
Along with "Jobs,” there are three other films that played at this year's Sundance Film Festival opening this weekend.
Radius-TWC’s documentary "Cutie and the Boxer,” Sony Pictures Classics’ romantic comedy "Austenland” and IFC’s Western "Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” all make limited debuts on Friday.