It’s not often that butlers get much notice. It’s part of the job, really, to be unobtrusive. Invisible. A room or office, Cecil Gaines tells us in The Butler, should feel “empty when I’m in it.”
Unless, of course, that office is the box office. And the butler in question is headlining a major motion picture.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler drew some attention to itself this weekend, politely elbowing its way to the top of the weekend grosses and polishing an estimated $25 million—a dandy showing for the kind of drama that in the CGI-addled summertime movie season typically must sneak through the back door.
Not that The Butler had much competition from any newcomers. Its closest competition, in fact, came from a pair of holdovers: We’re the Millers lost just a third of its audience and held tight to second place with $17.8 million, while last week’s champ Elysium slipped to third with $13.6 mil.
In fact, The Butler’s closest new combatant, Kick-A‑‑ 2, had its own keister kicked at the box office. The scurvy pseudo-superhero flick also earned around $13.6 million (studio estimates have it finishing just behind holdover Elysium)—a dismal debut for this failing franchise. The original flick made $19.8 million in its opening week in 2010, which at the time was also considered rather underwhelming. Undeterred, a sequel was spun and did even worse. If anyone greenlights a Kick-A‑‑ 3, there may be cause for an intervention.
But even so, Kick-A‑‑ 2 still edged Disney’s forgettably cute Planes (which earned $13.1 million for fifth place) and holds profanity-laced bragging rights over two other newcomers that fared even worse. Jobs, about Apple’s near-legendary co-founder Steve Jobs, stumbled badly out of the gate, earning $6.7 million—the first real bomb Apple’s had on its hands since the Newton. And the makers of Paranoia may feel as if the whole moviegoing public’s out to get them: The corporate thriller made a meager $3.5 million.
Final figures update: 1. The Butler, $24.6 million; 2. We’re the Millers, $18 million; 3. Elysium, $13.7 million; 4. Planes, $13.4 million; 5. Kick-A– 2, $13.3 million.