'The Butler': 'True Story' Movie Reaches Milestone + 'Insidious: Chapter 2' 2nd Biggest September Opening

The Butler Jane Fonda Nancy Reagan Alan Rickman Ronald ReaganAlan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan in 'The Butler'

'The Butler': 'True story' drama passes $100 million milestone at North American box office

Sept. 17, '13, update: Hailed as a sleeper hit upon its North American release in mid-August, Lee Daniels' The Butler, featuring an all-star cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, James Marsden, and Robin Williams, passed the $100 million milestone at the domestic box office last Sunday, Sep. 15, 2013. As of Monday, the $30 million-budgeted The Butler's domestic box office total stood at $100.5 million, as per Boxofficemojo.com.

The “based on a true story” account of a black butler (Forest Whitaker) who served eight U.S. presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, during the course of three decades, The Butler was distributed by the Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company. Considering the film's domestic box office success and the generally positive reviews – 80 percent approval rating and 7.1/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics – expect The Butler to become one of the key players at the 2014 Academy Awards. Nothing appeals more to Academy members than movies with a patina of prestige mixed with a good dose of sentiment.

The Butler has yet to expand internationally, having so far raked in $3.27 million in France, Portugal, and Belgium. Chances are that Lee Daniels' movie will perform along the lines of Tate Taylor's similarly themed The Help, a sleeper hit in North America ($169.7 million cume) that performed only passably overseas ($41.9 million according to Box Office Mojo, a possibly incomplete figure). I should add that The Help was immensely helped (bad pun intended) by its awards-season buzz and Oscar nominations, as its all-star cast (Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, etc.) doesn't consist of major international box office draws, while the Civil Rights era belong to U.S. history, a theme that the overwhelming majority of people outside the United States couldn't care less about.

'The Butler': The Weinstein Company's fifth movie to reach $100 million

Ignoring inflation, The Butler is only The Weinstein Company's fifth movie to pass the $100 million milestone at the domestic box office. Its predecessors were the following:

All four aforementioned TWC releases received Best Picture Academy Award nominations, with The King's Speech as the 2010 winner. Overall, the combined Oscar nominations of those four TWC releases reached a total of 33, including eight wins.

Note: Adjusted for inflation, Scary Movie 4's $90.71 million in 2006 would translate into approximately $113 million in 2013. Scary Movie 4, however, failed to receive a single Oscar nomination.

'The Butler' cast

Besides Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, James Marsden (as John F. Kennedy), Jane Fonda (as Nancy Reagan), and Robin Williams (as Dwight D. Eisenhower), The Butler's extensive cast includes Minka Kelly as Jacqueline Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, and Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King Jr.

Among The Butler's other cast members are Alex Pettyfer, Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Danny Strong, Mariah Carey, Colin Walker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jim Gleason, Lenny Kravitz, and Alex Manette. The Butler was written by Danny Strong (of the Sarah Palin cable movie Game Change, starring Julianne Moore, and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2), from an article by Wil Haygood.

Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan The Butler photo: The Weinstein Company.

Sept. 16

Insidious Chapter 2 Barbara Hershey'Insidious: Chapter 2' box office: Horror movie has second best September debut ever – not taking inflation into account (image: Barbara Hershey in 'Insidious: Chapter 2')

As further evidence that moviegoers are sick and tired of sequels, James Wan's Insidious: Chapter 2, starring Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and veteran Barbara Hershey, took in $40.27 million this past weekend, September 13-15, at the North America box office according to weekend actuals found at Boxofficemojo.com. That's more than three times the $13.27 million Wan's Insidious collected in April 2011. How could that be?

Well, James Wan's Warner Bros.-distributed The Conjuring, starring Vera Farmiga and Insidious' Patrick Wilson, became a sleeper horror hit in mid-July, collecting an astounding – for a relatively low-budget horror movie – $41.85 million on its first weekend, ultimately cuming at $136 million in North America in addition to an excellent – once again, for a relatively low-budget horror movie – $135.2 million internationally. That helped to create extra buzz for the FilmDistrict-distributed Insidious: Chapter 2, which officially cost $5 million to produce though its marketing budget was surely not inconsiderable. (Much like the cheaply made, but not cheaply marketed Paranormal Activity movies.)

Something else: For obvious reasons, Friday the 13th is an excellent date to open horror movies. Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill, Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head, and Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand would all have killed it at the box office had they been lucky enough to open on such a Friday. Anyhow, as per Box Office Mojo, Insidious: Chapter 2 earned more than half of its opening weekend take on Friday proper, dropping a worrisome 33 percent on Saturday and an extra 50 percent on Sunday. For comparison's sake: The Conjuring was down 17 percent on its first Saturday and 21 percent on Sunday.

Insidious cumed at $54 million in North America. Expect Insidious: Chapter 2 to gross north of $90 million. Could it reach $100 million? Theoretically yes, but unlike The Conjuring, Wan's second 2013 horror movie suffered the aforementioned steep Saturday and Sunday drops; those indicate that, once again unlike The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2 will likely follow the usual frontloaded path of most horror films.

James Wan in the footsteps of box office trailblazers Andy and Lana Wachowski

According to Box Office Mojo's Ray Subers, the impressive weekend debuts of James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2 mark only the second time that a film director has had two movies open with more than $40 million in the same year (not taking inflation into account). Andy and Lana Wachowski were the first back in 2003, following the release of the Keanu Reeves sci-fiers / fantasy movies The Matrix Reloaded ($91.77 million or about $124 million adjusted for inflation) and The Matrix Revolutions ($48.47 million or about $66 million adjusted).

Taking inflation into account, James Wan and the Wachowski siblings would have more company. For instance, adjusted for inflation, Steven Spielberg had two movies opening above the $40 million mark in 2002: Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, debuted with approximately $50 million adjusted, while Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, opened with about $42 million.

Once again pretending that inflation doesn't exist, Insidious: Chapter 2 had the second best September debut ever, trailing only the Adam Sandler-voiced Hotel Transylvania's $42.52 million. Once inflation is factored in, Insidious 2 drops a couple of slots, also trailing Andy Tennant's Reese Witherspoon star vehicle Sweet Home Alabama and the Brett Ratner-directed Jackie Chan / Chris Tucker flick Rush Hour.

Now, inflation or no, Insidious: Chapter 2 is definitely FilmDistrict's top weekend debut ever, well ahead of the Gerard Butler / Aaron Eckhart actioner Olympus Has Fallen's $30.4 million.

'Insidious: Chapter 2' cast

Besides Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, and Barbara Hershey, Insidious: Chapter 2 features Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Hank Harris, and Jocelin Donahue.

Barbara Hershey Insidious: Chapter 2 photo: FilmDistrict.

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