Even a legion of ardent teenage girls was unable to overpower Oprah Winfrey at the box office this Labor Day weekend, as the film “The Butler” starring the media mogul cleaned up for the third consecutive weekend.
Heading into the four-day holiday, pre-release audience surveys indicated that a new 3-D concert documentary about the U.K.-based boy band One Direction would be the big winner. While “One Direction: This Is Us” did sell more tickets between Friday and Sunday than “The Butler,” the civil rights drama’s four-day tally was $20 million, according to an estimate from distributor the Weinstein Co. The One Direction film has so far collected a healthy $18 million -- a figure that includes ticket sales from Thursday evening screenings.
“The Butler,” about a devoted White House employee played by Forest Whitaker who served eight different presidents, has now grossed $79.3 million since debuting mid-August. Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Co.'s president of theatrical distribution, noted that an increasing number of late-night ticket sales indicated the film was now attracting younger moviegoers. The independent studio is hopeful the film may now reach $120 million at the domestic box office, Lomis said.
Meanwhile, even though “This Is Us” came in a bit below industry expectations and two other new films -- “Getaway” and “Closed Circuit” -- flopped, it was still the biggest Labor Day on record, not adjusting for inflation. All movies released over the long weekend grossed a total of $157 million -- beating 2007’s $148-million haul.
Not surprisingly, “This Is Us” attracted a strong female contingent. Roughly 87% of the audience were women, and 65% were under the age of 17. Those who saw the movie loved it, assigning it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Shot during the first six months of 2013, the movie is directed by “Super Size Me” filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who trailed the group on their current world tour.
Produced by Sony Pictures’ TriStar label for $10 million, “This Is Us” is off to a better start than the most recent concert documentary to hit theaters, “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” Last summer, the pop star’s film opened to just $7.1 million; One Direction’s flick grossed $15.8 million in its first three days in release. Still, Directioners didn’t prove to be quite as rabid as Beliebers: Justin Bieber’s film “Never Say Never” launched with $29.5 million in 2011.
Overseas, “This Is Us” launched in 53 foreign countries including Mexico and France and grossed $14.5 million. As expected, the film performed best in the band’s native U.K., selling $5.7 million worth of tickets there.
Tweens weren’t as eager to see former “Wizards of Wavery Place” star Selena Gomez’s new movie, “Getaway.” The picture -- which has the dubious distinction of being the worst-reviewed film of the summer -- spun out at the box office this weekend with a four-day opening of just $5.5 million.
As much as critics hated it -- the film has an embarrassing 2% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- audiences disliked it, too, giving the film an average grade of C+. The picture stars Gomez as a computer whiz who helps a man (Ethan Hawke) trying to rescue his kidnapped wife.
Gomez, 21, has had better luck singing than acting. The one-time Disney Channel star saw her newest album “Stars Dance” debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in August, the same month she took home an MTV Video Music Award for pop video. While her last film, the racy indie “Spring Breakers,” was a hit at the art-house, the only other movie she has headlined -- 2011’s “Monte Carlo” -- grossed only $23 million.
Playing in 870 locations, the thriller “Closed Circuit” had a dismal debut. The film starring Eric Bana opened on Wednesday and has since made $3.1 million. In an email, a spokeswoman for the Focus Features release would say only that the film’s “box office results have been modest over the holiday weekend.”