Weekend Box Office: Moviegoers so starved for drama they pay for a Lee Daniels movie

Weekend Box Office: Moviegoers so starved for drama they pay for a Lee Daniels movie

Anyone seeking a sign that blockbuster season is just about over—and that America may be happy to see it go—could find one in this weekend's box office numbers, which saw a stodgy, very autumn-friendly civil-rights drama trouncing the summer's final superhero movie. Lee Daniels' The Butler came in first place with about $25 million, proving that audiences either don't know or don't care that the titular director's last film was The Paperboy. After four months of basically nothing but popcorn movies, people were ready for an honest-to-God adult drama—maybe any drama, even one featuring John Cusack as Richard Nixon. Furthermore, someone forgot to inform the producers of Kick-Ass 2 that the season's cape-and-cowl quota has evidently been filled: The poorly-received sequel made just $13.5 million, a bit less than the 2010 original's $19.8 million opening and below what many box-office gurus were expecting it to gross. That the movie also landed in fourth place, behind last week's winners We're The Millers ($17.7 million) and Elysium ($13.5 million), is insult to bone-crunching injury. Did Jim Carrey's campaign of silence do its trick? Or are the nation's comic-book fans saving their money for the Thor sequel in November?

The hunger for adult-oriented entertainment didn't help Jobs, possibly because—as many reviews were quick to note—the Apple-founder biopic is not an especially adult movie. Ashton Kutcher's dramatic turn as Steve Jobs earned him a very measly $6.7 million, making the film maybe the least profitable Apple-related product since the Pippin. It did better, at least, than Paranoia. The corporate espionage thriller grossed just $3.5 million, earning it the distinction of summer's weakest opening. Maybe the reviews had something to do with that: Paranoia is the worst rated movie of the year, improbably edging out Grown Ups 2 for the top (bottom?) spot.

Two Sundance alums made modest debuts this weekend, with the comedy Austenland taking in $42,600 on four screens and the outlaw saga Ain't Them Bodies Saints opening to $28,800 on three screens. Both could conceivably grow into success stories over the next few weeks, though they'll face stiffer competition this fall, once Hollywood stops courting teenagers and starts rolling out its prestige fare. The end of summer has to be bittersweet for indie distributors, too; counter programming only works when you have a big, dumb action movie to program against. When does Riddick open again?

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.

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