Lee Daniels’ The Butler, starring Oprah Winfrey was the clear winner at the North American box office with an estimated $25 million for the three day weekend.
The civil rights saga, which also stars Forest Whitaker, as The Butler, blew past Jennifer Aniston’s R-rated comedy, We’re The Millers, which opened last weekend and took in $17.7 milliion.
The sequel Kick-Ass 2 which opened with great expectations disappointed with only $13.6 million and Ashton Kutcher’s biopic Jobs, based on Apple’s founder Steve Jobs story, didn’t even reach the $7 million mark.
Another star studded film, Paranoia, who has luminaries Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfuss, plus Aussie heartthrob Liam Hemsworth, didn’t make the top ten with less than $4 million.
The Weinstein Company (TWC) lost its legal battle against Warner Bros. over the use of the title The Butler, which is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served under eight administrations. Oprah Winfrey plays Allen’s wife.
High-powered attorney David Boies argued for TWC, but Warner Bros., which had reserved the right to the name based on a 1916 short, prevailed and Weinstein was forced to make the title change and added director Lee Daniels’ name.
During the dispute, TWC was forced to take down its web site, Facebook page and had to recall and rework much of its promotional materials. But none of that seemed to hurt the film and the box office, and it may have actually helped it.
Weinstein’s distribution chief Erik Lomis told The Wrap, their exit polls showed about 40 percent of the public that went to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler had heard about the name problems, so the negative publicity didn’t seem to affect the film, on the contrary.
Oprah Winfrey also boosted sales for Lee Daniels’ The Butler and brought people to the theater. This is her first big screen appearance in a decade in what promises to be a strong Oscar contender.