‘The Butler’ Leads Weekend Cinemas for Weinstein

Photographer: Anne Marie Fox/TWC Publicity/The Weinstein Company via Bloomberg

Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey as Howard and Gloria Gaines in "Lee Daniel's The Butler." The film is written by Danny Strong. Close

Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey as Howard and Gloria Gaines in "Lee Daniel's The... Read More

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Photographer: Anne Marie Fox/TWC Publicity/The Weinstein Company via Bloomberg

Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey as Howard and Gloria Gaines in "Lee Daniel's The Butler." The film is written by Danny Strong.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the Weinstein Co. film about a black man who served in the White House under eight presidents, led the weekend box office at U.S. and Canadian theaters with sales of $24.6 million.

“Kick-Ass 2,” a Universal Pictures film about teen crime fighters, collected $13.3 million to place fifth, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in a statement. “Jobs,” a low-budget film about the late Apple Inc. (AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs, opened with $6.7 million for seventh place.

“The Butler” surpassed the $22.5 million forecast by researcher Boxoffice.com. helped by favorable reviews for the performances of Forest Whitaker in the feature role of Cecil Gaines, based on the real-life White House servant Eugene Allen, and Oprah Winfrey, who plays his wife. For Weinstein, it’s the studio’s widest release since “Scary Movie 5” in April, opening in more than 2,900 theaters.

“It’s a great movie with a solid cast playing to an under-served audience,” said Gitesh Pandya, chief executive officer of Boxofficeguru.com, in an interview yesterday. “Oprah is a big draw and I’m already hearing some Oscar buzz.”

“The Butler” cost about $30 million to produce. The picture recounts the real life story of Allen, who served presidents from Eisenhower, played by Robin Williams, to Reagan and whose life is used to frame turning points in American history, including the Civil Rights movement. It also features Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan and was directed by Lee Daniels.

Domestic Work

“It’s a joy to watch,” wrote Bloomberg News critic Craig Seligman, who gave the movie three stars out of a possible five. “The movie honors the dignity of domestic work; it’s less respectful about presidential work.”

“Kick-Ass 2,” a sequel to a 2010 movie, collected slightly more than half the $24 million projection of Boxoffice.com. The movie, from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s studio division, opened amid poor reviews and was criticized for its violence in a June Twitter posting by Jim Carrey, one of the stars.

“It’s just another action movie in a summer full of big action movies and it’s not a very competitive brand,” Pandya said. “It’ll be tough for them to fund a third film.”

The R-rated picture was made for $28 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It features Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Moretz as gun-toting teenage superheroes who take to the streets to fight crime.

Witless, Mirthless

“There isn’t anything good to say about ‘Kick-Ass 2,’ the even more witless, mirthless follow-up to ‘Kick-Ass,’” wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “It’s the kind of cynical product that gives violent movies a bad name. There’s no story to speak of, just a familiar title, recycled characters and carnage.”

While “Jobs,” from Open Road Films, beat Sony Corp. (6758) to theaters with its film on the Apple legend, it has received criticism that its portrayal isn’t factual.

Starring Ashton Kutcher, the film chronicles the rise of Apple, the ouster of Jobs, his life away from Apple and his eventual return, sparking one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of corporate America.

The film, which opened in 2,381 theaters, was made for $8.5 million and was projected to take $10 million this past weekend by Boxoffice.com.

Revenue Declines

Sony’s version, based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography and slated to be written and directed by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin, doesn’t have a release date.

“Paranoia,” the fourth new release, collected $3.5 million to place 13th. The movie stars Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman as two corporate titans who will stop at nothing to destroy each other’s empires. The film, from Relativity Media LLC, was projected to take in $6 million, the estimate of Boxoffice.com.

Among returning films, the Time Warner Inc. comedy “We’re the Millers,” took in $18 million to finish No. 2 in its second week of release. Last week’s No. 1 movie, “Elysium,” fell to third place with $13.7 million in receipts.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 4.7 percent to $121.4 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Attendance year to date is down 2.8 percent, while revenue has risen less than a percentage point.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Livesey in London at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Christopher Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kevin Miller at kmiller@bloomberg.net

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