Despite the massive popularity of movies like "Kick-Ass 2" and "The Avengers," box-office observers predicted that comic-book based sequel "Kick-Ass 2" would be roundly beaten by a historical drama over the weekend. They were right.
"Lee Daniels' The Butler" topped the box office over the weekend with a $25 million debut. Starring Forest Whitaker as a character based on a butler who worked in the White House for 34 years, "The Butler" was the last film produced by the late Laura Ziskin, whose producer and executive producer credits included four "Spider-Man" films and "Pretty Woman."
"Kick-Ass 2" floundered in the #4 spot with just $13.5 million, behind both "We're the Millers" and "Elysium" from the week before. Liam Hemsworth's corporate espionage thriller "Paranoia" and Ashton Kutcher's Steve Jobs biopic, "Jobs," both bombed. Neither movie debuted in the top five, despite the considerable respective fanbases for the two stars.
"Lee Daniels' The Butler" was the only one of the weekend's four widely released new films to receive mostly positive reviews from film critics. The film's success owed a lot to Oprah Winfrey, who put a great deal of time and effort into promoting her first scripted/live-action film role in more than a decade. "Kick-Ass 2" failed to receive the enthusiastic critical reception of its predecessor, amassing just 28 percent positive reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes. "Jobs" fared even worse, with 25 percent on the Tomatometer, while "Paranoia" was one of the worst reviewed films of the year, sitting at just 4 percent.
"The Butler" was produced for just $30 million and has been called the first true Academy Awards contender of the year. The prospects look great for the latest film from Oscar kingmakers the Weinstein Company, particularly with so few "grownup dramas" in the marketplace. Audiences who saw "Lee Daniels' The Butler" assigned it a CinemaScore of "A."
"Kick-Ass" earned only $48.1 million domestically in 2010, but its success on DVD and on-demand services was enough for Universal to push forward with a sequel. It's the latest in a string of comic-based sequels that failed to live up to the original's success, including "Red 2," "The Wolverine" and "The Smurfs 2" (yes, the Smurfs got their start on the printed page). The fact that the film's biggest star, Jim Carrey, withdrew his endorsement of the film due to its extreme violence certainly didn't help.
There's no denying the courage it must've taken for Ashton Kutcher to play Apple visionary Steve Jobs, particularly so soon after the cultural icon's death. Despite the star's creative bravery, "Jobs" made a meager $6.7 million over the weekend. Jobs' Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has been critical of the film and audiences who saw it gave it a "B-" CinemaScore.
Despite supporting turns from screen legend Harrison Ford and Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman, "Paranoia" couldn't withstand the competition at the box office. The thriller starring Liam Hemsworth, brother to Chris Hemsworth aka Thor, earned an extremely low $3.5 million in its opening weekend. "Paranoia" received a "C+" CinemaScore from audiences.
R-rated comedy "We're the Millers" held onto the #2 spot for a second consecutive weekend, making $17.8 million for a two-week total of $69.5 million. "Millers" reunited "Horrible Bosses" co-stars Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston. Last weekend's #1 movie, "Elysium," was #3 with $13.6 million. Matt Damon's $115 million sci-fi flick has made $55.9 million domestically, all but ensuring "Elysium" will end up doing less business than filmmaker Neill Blomkamp's much-beloved debut, "District 9."
Disney's "Planes," once intended to go direct-to-DVD, rounded out the top five with $13.1 million for a $45 million two week total. The "Cars" spinoff, featuring Dane Cook in the lead voice role, was produced by DisneyToons for about $50 million.
This weekend will be the third in a row to see four new films vying for the top spot. But unlike last weekend, the majority of them are getting great reviews: "The World's End," "You're Next" and "The Frozen Ground," in that order. Only the big-screen adaptation of "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" has yet to receive commentary from major film critics.