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‘The Butler’ stands tall for second week

Historical drama adds $17 million, heads for $100 million haul

NEW YORK – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” served up a second helping at the box office, topping the weekend with $17 million according to studio estimates Sunday.

That was enough to lead all films on a late August weekend known as a dumping ground for studios following their summer blockbusters and before the start of the fall movie-going season. Daniels’ historical drama about a long-serving White House butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, last weekend opened with $24.6 million for the Weinstein Co.

Three new releases failed to catch on. The teen fantasy “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” adapted from the popular young adult book series, opened tepidly in third with $9.3 million on the weekend and $14 million since opening Wednesday. With franchise hopes, Sony Screen Gems has already started production on a sequel.

Edgar Wright’s pub-crawl-gone-wrong comedy “The World’s End” opened with $8.9 million for Focus Features. That was a better start for “The World’s End,” which stars Simon Pegg, than Wright’s last film with the actor: 2007’s “Hot Fuzz.” It opened with $5.8 million. Playing in 1,549 theaters, “The World’s End” did its business in less than half the theaters of “The Butler” or “Mortal Instruments.”

With a cumulative total of $52.3 million, “The Butler” is headed for a domestic haul of $100 million. It has followed the release pattern of another movie about race and domestic service: the 2011 drama “The Help,” also released in August. The Weinstein Co. hopes that “The Butler” will similarly lead to Oscar nominations.

Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com, attributed the success of “The Butler” particularly to the marketing power of Winfrey and a savvy choice of a release date with little competition.

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