News Column

'Butler' likely to be No. 1 again as 'Mortal Instruments' disappoints

August 22, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 22--"The Butler" is on its way to making a tidy profit for the Weinstein Co.

Starring Forest Whitaker as a White House employee who served eight presidents, "Butler" got off to a robust start last weekend, debuting at No. 1 with $24.6 million. The Lee Daniels-directed picture should secure the top spot again during its second weekend in theaters, collecting at least $12 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

Meanwhile, the three new films hitting the box office nationwide are not poised to make much of a splash.

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," a teen-aimed fantasy flick based on a popular young adult novel, opened Wednesday in an effort to generate positive buzz before the weekend. It doesn't appear that move will pay off, though. The film grossed $3 million on its first day in release and is expected to make a lackluster total of $14 million through Sunday evening.

That means "Mortal Instruments" will likely gross between $8 million and $10 million between Friday and Sunday -- the same amount the British comedy "The World's End" and the horror film "You're Next" are expected to start off with.

In other words: It'll be a tight race for the runner-up position.

If "Mortal Instruments" does not exceed industry projections this weekend, its German financial backer Constantin Film may be particularly disappointed. The company, which spent $60 million to produce the film and another $60 million to market it abroad, is already in pre-production on a sequel set to shoot this fall. Sony Pictures' Screen Gems label, which is distributing the first film in the U.S. this weekend, paid to advertise the movie stateside.

Written by Cassandra Clare, the five-book "Mortal Instruments" series has sold 24 million copies worldwide. But in the wake of the massive success of the "Twilight" franchise, several movies adapted from young adult novels have failed to connect with moviegoers. Though "The Hunger Games" series is a hit, "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Host" tanked at the box office this year.

In the first "Mortal Instruments" movie, Lily Collins plays protagonist Clary Fray, a teenager who discovers she is part of a clan of demon chasers. The film has received by far the worst reviews of any of the weekend's new debuts, notching a 16% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, those who saw the movie Wednesday liked it more than critics, assigning the movie an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

On the contrary, "The World's End" has been embraced by reviewers. The movie is the third installment in a series of English comedies from the trio of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. Though 2004's "Shaun of the Dead" made just $30 million worldwide, 2007's "Hot Fuzz" fared better, collecting $80 million in global ticket sales -- and both were inexpensive to produce.

The $20 million-budgeted "World's End" launched in four foreign markets in July and has since collected about $16 million. Not surprisingly, the film has so far made most of its money in the U.K. Directed by Wright, who co-wrote it with Pegg, the movie stars Pegg and Frost in a film about a group of old high school buddies who embark on an ambitious pub crawl as the apocalypse looms.

"You're Next" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, where it was quickly acquired from production company Snoot Entertainment by Lionsgate. However, the film's release was delayed when Lionsgate purchased Summit Entertainment in in January 2012, forcing the merged studio to rearrange its movie slate.

The movie has been well-received by critics -- a rarity for a horror film. The picture, which does not star any well-known actors, is about a group of masked murderers who invade a family reunion wielding axes.

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(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times

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