Lee Daniels' The Butler was the top film at the box office this weekend, easily outperforming all its competitors. The film turned critical raves and Oscar buzz into a $25 million take, leaps and bounds above We're the Millers, which took second place with $17.8 million and Kick-Ass 2, grossing a tepid $13.6 million despite an all-star cast and plenty of violence.
Among the weekend's other disappointments were Jobs, the biopic of Apple founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher, and crime thriller Paranoia starring Liam Hemsworth.
Critical acclaim aside, The Butler's success has been credited to two things, according to box office analysts: Oprah Winfrey and the Black church-going audience. Winfrey launched a full-scale publicity push to promote the film, including a rare and candid discussion with various media outlets about her experiences with racism.
Churches also came out in support of the historical epic, about a White House butler who served through eight presidential administrations. Nearly 40 percent of the audience for The Butler was Black and the high number of advance ticket sales indicate that efforts to mobilize church-going audiences was a success.
The film also stirred up a fair amount of controversy. Tiffany Flowers, a Maryland resident, caused a Twitter uproar when she revealed that the theater in which she saw The Butler, alongside an "almost entirely Black audience," was surrounded by armed guards. She tells TheGrio.com that the security measures seemed entirely out of place for a peaceful, middle-aged crowd but refrained from lodging a complaint with theater management because she "didn't want to play the Black card."
Lee Daniels' The Butler shouldn't have much trouble holding on to its position at the box office next week with relatively few new shows coming to town. British indie sci-fi comedy The World's End and action-adventure film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones are the only notable new releases.
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(Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company)