"The Butler" polished off the competition at the box office this weekend, scoring its second consecutive No. 1 win.
In its second weekend in theaters, the civil-rights drama starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey saw its ticket sales fall only 31% to $17 million, according to an estimate from distributor Weinstein Co. After 10 days in release, the picture has collected a robust $52.3 million and is well on its way to hitting the $100 million mark.
Erik Lomis, the independent studio’s head of theatrical distribution, said the film’s “audience is starting to broaden out.” On opening weekend, 76% of the crowd was over age 35 -- this weekend, 62%. Last weekend, 39% of the audience was African American, compared with 33% this weekend.
"Mortal Instruments," which distributor Sony Pictures had hoped would become the next big teen fantasy franchise, fizzled with young audiences. The $60-million production, based on Cassandra Clare's bestselling novel, opened Wednesday in an effort to spread positive word of mouth before the crowded weekend. But the movie ended up grossing just $9.3 million between Friday and Sunday, giving it a lackluster five-day tally of $14.1 million.
That's bad news for Germany's Constantin Film, which financed the movie, paid another $60 million to market it internationally and is already in preproduction on a sequel. It's unclear whether the company will move ahead with a second film after the first's underwhelming opening, but last week the company's co-president Robert Kulzer expressed confidence in the franchise's potential.
"Even if the movie performs moderately, it will still warrant a sequel," Kulzer said in an interview with The Times. "Now that $60 million has been spent worldwide on prints and advertising, you can already see how the book sales are accelerating, the soundtrack is hitting the charts. Even if the first one doesn't become a gigantic success, we will have a profitable track ahead of us."
On paper, it seemed "Mortal Instruments" had the potential to become a hit: Clare's five-book series about a teenage girl who discovers she is part of a breed of demon hunters has sold 24 million copies worldwide. Instead, the movie is the latest post-"Twilight" release based on a young-adult novel to misfire, following this year's "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Host."
"Mortal Instruments," which stars Lily Collins, was panned by critics but received a more positive average grade of B+ from its opening weekend crowd, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Not surprisingly, most of those who saw the film were female -- 68% -- but the picture skewed a tad older than expected, as 54% of the audience was over 21.
Meanwhile, "The World's End" launched with $8.9 million -- not a huge opening, but still a respectable one given the British comedy's $20-million budget.
The third entry in a trilogy from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the picture performed better than its predecessors. In 2004, "Shaun of the Dead" launched with only $3.3 million, while 2007's "Hot Fuzz" started off with $5.8 million. Neither film was hugely popular in the U.S., but "Hot Fuzz" went on to gross a respectable $80.6 million worldwide.
"The World's End" opened in about 1,500 theaters -- 1,000 less than "You're Next" and 1,500 less than "Mortal Instruments."
About a group of friends trying to complete a pub crawl before the apocalypse, "The World's End" is likely to fare far better abroad. The movie, which has yet to open in most foreign markets, debuted last month in four countries overseas -- including Britain -- and has since collected about $16 million.
In America, the movie, directed by Wright and starring Pegg and Frost, had the best reviews of any of the weekend's new releases, and audiences enjoyed it as well. Those who saw the film -- a young male crowd, 71% of whom were under 35 -- assigned the film an average B+ grade.
"You're Next," another low-budget production, also failed to catch on with a broad audience, starting off with $7.1 million. Due to the success of inexpensive scary movies like "The Purge" and "The Conjuring" in recent months, many thought You're Next" had the potential to exceed industry expectations. The movie was also beloved by critics -- a rare occurrence in the horror genre -- and was well-received when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011.
The picture, about murderers who don masks and invade a family reunion with axes in hand, was acquired at the Canadian festival by Lionsgate. It earned the worst CinemaScore of the weekend: a B-.