“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” rallied to overtake the concert film “One Direction: This Is Us” to win the Labor Day weekend box office race and become the first movie this year to finish No. 1 three consecutive weeks.
The Weinstein Company estimated the civil rights saga, starring Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker, will bring in a little more than $20 million over the four-day holiday weekend. That was just enough to beat out Sony’s boy band music documentary, which finished with $18 million after leading the pack through the first three days.
“We’re surprised,” TWC’s distribution chief Erik Lomis told TheWrap, “and very proud. We weren’t expecting to come away with this one, especially after starting out $5 million behind ‘One Direction’ after Friday.”
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He said “The Butler,” which has now brought in nearly $80 million domestically, was continuing to broaden its demographic base by playing younger.
“With the kids getting back to school, we’re hoping the word of mouth gets even stronger,” said Lomis. There’s not much room to expand in terms of theaters; it’s on 3,330 screens and averaged just over $6,000.
Two other wide openers – the Selena Gomez-Ethan Hawke thriller “Getaway” and the Eric Bana spy tale “Closed Circuit” – were both non-starters. But “Instructions Not Included,” a family comedy starring Eugenio Derbez, recorded the biggest domestic opening ever for a Spanish-language movie – on just 347 screens – and finished fifth with $10 million for the four days.
Despite being beaten out for the four-day crown, “One Direction” captured the three-day chase with $15.8 million and is a clear win for Sony. The studio was looking for a four-day total in the mid-teen millions for its $10 million documentary, which was directed by Morgan Spurlock, who produced along with Simon Cowell.
The music mogul put together the boy band — Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson – after they performed as solo acts on the U.K. version of “The X Factor.”
“This was a collaborative effort between Sony Music and the film division and we couldn’t be happier,” the studio’s head of distribution Rory Bruer said. “We think it’s going to do very well overseas, too.”
The film, which also utilized the latest camera technology from Sony’s electronic unit, was off to strong start abroad, taking in $14.5 million from the 53 foreign markets in which it debuted this weekend. “This Is Us” rang up $5.7 million in the U.K., home turf for the British boy band, considerably stronger than the debuts of the “Hannah Montana” concert movie and “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”
Sony narrowly targeted its marketing efforts on the band’s fan base of teen girls and connected. The audience which gave it an “A” CinemaScore, was 65 percent under the age of 17 and 87 percent female. They got the movie off to a fast $8.9 million start on Friday.
Warner Bros.’ Jennifer Aniston‘s pot comedy “We’re the Millers” continued to hold strongly and took in nearly $16 million to finish third over the four days, passing $100 million and raising its domestic total to $112 million after three weeks. Disney’s animated family film “Planes” was fourth with $10.6 million.
Warner Bros.’ “Getaway” was one of the year’s worst-reviewed movies – it had just a 2 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and that didn’t help it. Audiences were in line with the critics and gave it just a “C+” CinemaScore as it brought in $5.5 million for the four days, barely cracking the top ten.
Focus Features’ “Closed Circuit,” meanwhile, debuted in 870 theaters to a very soft $3.1 million.
Paramount packaged “World War Z” as a double bill with its “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and Brad Pitt‘s zombie thriller surpassed the $200 million at the domestic box office. Guillermo del Toro’s giant robot epic “Pacific Rim” clanked past $100 million for Warner Bros.