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‘The Butler’ Tops Weekend to Cap Hollywood Summer Record

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” led ticket sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters for a third weekend over the Labor Day holiday, as Hollywood wrapped up a record summer season at the box office.

The Weinstein Co. film, based on the real-life story of a White House servant, collected $20.2 million over four days, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in a statement. That was enough to outdistance “One Direction: This Is Us,” the concert documentary on the British boy band, in its debut.

The weekend’s $157 million haul, a record for Labor Day, brought to a close Hollywood’s biggest summer ever. The season, which runs from May through early September, accounts for 40 percent or more of annual ticket sales. Revenue rose 10 percent to $4.71 billion from a year earlier, surpassing 2011’s high of $4.4 billion, according to Hollywood.com. Attendance surged 6.6 percent despite notable failures such as “The Lone Ranger.”

“This has been a huge summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com-Box Office, in an interview. “It’s amazing, especially after coming off so many big-budget tent-pole flops.”

“The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, is based on the real-life story of Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. presidents. Made for an estimated $30 million, it has collected $79.5 million since Aug. 16, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.

Boy Band

“This Is Us,” which led the weekend through Sept. 1, generated $18.5 million to take second place for Sony Corp. (6758) The movie, made for an estimated $10 million, was projected to take $22 million in its first four days, according to Boxoffice.com.

About the popular band mentored by pop impresario Simon Cowell, “One Direction” follows Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik and Liam Payne on a 150-date world tour. Tracing the boys’ hometown beginnings, it’s a mix of live concert footage with behind-the-scenes shots.

Surprise hit “We’re the Millers” finished in third with $16.3 million, for a total of $113.2 million since Aug. 7. It was made for an estimated $37 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Bankable sequels like “Iron Man 3,” “Despicable Me 2” and “Fast & Furious 6” contributed to the summer record. The animated “Despicable Me 2,” made for $76 million, has collected $355.7 million in domestic theaters for Universal Pictures since July 3, according to Box Office Mojo -- second only to Walt Disney Co.’s latest “Iron Man” installment, which has taken $408.9 million, among releases this year.

‘Increasingly Bigger’

“The biggest films are getting increasingly bigger and the vulnerability for everyone else is growing,” Christopher Meledandri, producer of “Despicable Me 2,” said in an interview.

“Fast & Furious 6,” the latest of the car-chase sagas, has generated $238.7 million domestically.

Other summer movies that have topped $200 million in the U.S. include “Man of Steel” from Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros., “Monsters University” from Disney, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “World War Z” from Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures.

Studios typically split box-office revenue with theater owners, then collect additional home-video revenue from DVD sales, cable-channel play and on-demand viewing. After production and marketing costs, few movies make back their investment while in theaters.

Summer Flops

This summer, some big-budget movies flopped, including Johnny Depp’s “The Lone Ranger” and Sony’s “After Earth” with Will Smith. Studios may be more selective in the future about releasing expensive movies that aren’t sequels, Dergarabedian said.

“The Lone Ranger,” made for about $225 million, has generated $88.4 million domestically. Disney, based in Burbank, California, will record a loss of as much as $190 million on the film this quarter. “After Earth, made for $130 million according to Box Office Mojo, has collected $60.5 million in the U.S. for Sony.

‘‘There were enough hits to more than offset the misses,’’ said Dergarabedian. ‘‘Even the films that didn’t meet expectations contributed to this record total.’’

Among the weekend’s other new releases, ‘‘Instructions Not Included’’ from Pantelion Films and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF), took in $10.4 million for fifth place, in the biggest opening for a Spanish-language film in North America, according to Hollywood.com. ‘‘Getaway,’’ a release from Warner Bros. starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, took in $5.6 million for 10th place.

Attendance Drop

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 9.9 percent to $120.4 million over four days from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Attendance year to date is down 2.3 percent, while revenue has risen 1 percent to $7.69 billion.

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 on Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
===============================================================
1 THE BUTLER           $20.2   3,330   $6,066   -10   $79.5   3
1 ONE DIRECTION         18.5   2,735    6,754    --   $18.5   1
3 WE’RE THE MILLERS     16.3   3,445    4,728    -3   113.2   4
4 PLANES                10.9   3,259    3,339   -10    74.0   4
5 INSTRUCTIONS NOT      10.4     348   29,823    --    10.4   1
6 ELYSIUM                8.4   2,539    3,317    -7    80.5   4
7 MORTAL INSTRUMENTS     7.1   3,118    2,267   -41    24.5   2
8 THE WORLD’S END        6.5   1,553    4,193   -43    18.3   2
9 PERCY JACKSON          6.2   2,393    2,586   -15    56.7   4
10 GETAWAY               5.6   2,130    2,632   --      5.6   1
11 BLUE JASMINE          5.3   1,179    4,501     0    21.8   6
12 YOU’RE NEXT           5.1   2,437    2,080   -42    14.4   2


Top 12 Films Grosses:
   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg
===================================
     $120.4        $109.5       9.9


Year-to-date Revenue:
     2013          2012
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $7,694.4      $7,615         1


Year-to-date Attendance:       -2.3%

Source: Hollywood.com Box-Office

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Livesey in San Francisco at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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