In the publishing world, an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey is valued more highly than the Pulitzer Prize. That’s because an Oprah endorsement guarantees sales of at least 300,000 or higher, whereas the Pulitzer only boosts sales by a fraction of that figure.
But does Oprah’s influence over what books people read also translate to what movies people see?
For awhile, it looked like the answer was no. The 1998 adaptation of Beloved that Winfrey starred in still stands as one of the biggest flops of all time. Although Winfrey had no problem convincing her fan base to buy Toni Morrison’s novel, the movie version proved to be a different matter altogether. It opened in fifth place, behind The Bride of Chucky.
But now that The Butler has opened at the top of the box office, it looks like maybe the failure of Beloved was some kind of fluke. The movie earned $25 million over the weekend, nearly twice as much as the weekend’s other major new release, Kick-Ass 2. As a point of comparison, The Help opened with $26 million in August of 2011. That movie went on to earn $169 million and become a cultural phenomenon. Since word of mouth seems to be just as strong with The Butler, it’s trajectory through the pop culture zeitgeist should be fairly similar.
In other news, Kick-Ass 2 did not seem to benefit from the controversy surrounding Jim Carrey’s decision to not promote it. It opened with only $13.6 million, a significant falling off from the $18 million that the original Kick-Ass opened with in 2010. Luckily for Universal, the movie only cost $28 million to make, so it probably won’t do R.I.P.D.-level damage to the studio’s earnings reports.
Here are the weekend’s top 10 movies:
1. The Butler $25M
2. We’re the Millers $17.8M (total: $69.5M)
3. Elysium $13.6M (total: $55.9M)
4. Kick-Ass 2 $13.6M
5. Planes $13.1M (total: $45.1M)
6. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters $8.38M (total: $38.9M)
7. jOBS $6.7M
8. 2 Guns $5.57M (total: $59.2M)
9. The Smurfs 2 $4.6M (total: $56.9M)
10. The Wolverine $4.42M (total: $120M)