Box Office Preview: August 16

Originally posted by Film Journal International

Summer may be almost over, but distributors are still hoping to score blockbuster-sized ticket sales before kids and teenagers head back to school. The Weinstein Company’s Butler and Kick-Ass 2 (from Universal) are expected to earn the top two spots at the box office this weekend.

Predictors may expect Kick-Ass 2 (2,940 theatres) to attract more viewers. It has all the trappings of a summer smash, after all: a sequel about superheroes with a big-name star (Jim Carrey) and fanboy cred. But don’t expect this film to do Man of Steel-style numbers. The original grossed under $20 million its opening weekend in 2010. It did move a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays, however, which Universal is citing as justification for a sequel. Kick-Ass 2 is also down a major actor: Nick Cage, whose performance as a deranged Batman wannabe was a main draw for audience members, does not appear in this installment.

Carrey’s character is meant to fill Cage’s shoes, but the comedian declined to promote the film, and even bashed it on social media for its excessive violence in the wake of tragedies like the Newtown shooting. The other factor that gave Kick-Ass so much buzz was then-11-year-old lead Chloe Grace Moretz’s, um, colorful dialogue, which fully justified the feature’s R rating. But Moretz is 15 now, and hearing her curse like a sailor and ridicule her co-stars just doesn’t have the same double take-inducing shock value. Universal is predicting that Kick-Ass 2 will gross $19.8 million this weekend, an identical figure to the original. This number would fall just short of The Butler’s expected haul, however.

A historical drama depicting crucial moments in African-American history from the 1920s through the Reagan era, The Butler (2,933 theatres) reads more Oscar-bait than box office smash. But the Weinstein Company has been promoting the film like mad. The presence of costar Oprah Winfrey (who hasn’t played a role other than herself onscreen since 1998’s Beloved) alone should ensure a sizable female audience. Forest Whitaker is bankable as protagonist Cecil Gaines, and audiences will be looking forward to catching Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, and Alan Rickman as assorted Commanders in Chief. The film also appeals to minority viewers and TWC has been promoting it heavily to church groups as well. In addition to all these demographics, The Butler is likely to gain a significant viewership from the overlooked 40+ set, who are drained from a summer’s worth of comic book adaptations. Finally, the film is rated PG-13, which gives it a greater built-in audience share than Kick-Ass 2, which is rated R.The Butler could easily earn $20 million this weekend, putting it just ahead of its rival’s predicted take.

Smaller releases Jobs (2,381 theaters) and Paranoia (2,459 theatres) also bow today. Neither has scored well with critics—Paranoia in particular is currently boasting a horrendous 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jobs stars Ashton Kutcher as the celebrated Apple founder, and the actor brings enough appeal to likely land the biopic in third place. Both films should bring in under $10 million. With no other PG-13 comedies currently in theaters, expect We’re the Millers to continue to pull in its portion of younger moviegoers. As the sole recent animated kids movie,Planes is in a similar position, which should boost its sales as well—thoughDespicable Me 2, which came out over a month and a half ago, is still playing in over 2,000 theatres.

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