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'The Butler' works its way to second box office win

Actor Forest Whitaker, star of the new film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," poses at the film's premiere in Los Angeles, California August 12, 20
Actor Forest Whitaker, star of the new film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," poses at the film's premiere in Los Angeles, California August 12, 20

By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Civil rights drama "Lee Daniels' The Butler" took home its second U.S. and Canadian box office title, topping a Jennifer Aniston comedy and a newly released supernatural teen film.

"The Butler," starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, earned $17 million in ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates. Jennifer Aniston comedy "We're the Millers" came in second with $13.5 million.

Among three late summer newcomers, "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" landed in third with $9.3 million, comedy "The World's End" finished fourth with $8.9 million, while low-budget horror film "You're Next" only managed the No. 7 slot, with $7.1 million.

"The Butler," which also topped movie charts a week ago, is inspired by the real-life story of an African American man who served as a White House butler for eight U.S. presidents. Whitaker stars as the title character and Winfrey plays his chain-smoking, hard-drinking wife.

The movie distributed by The Weinstein Company has rung up sales of $52.3 million through its first two weekends, far surpassing its $25 million budget paid by 28 investors, and is drumming up buzz as an awards season contender.

"Mortal Instruments," which stars Lily Collins as a teen who works to protect the world from demons, performed best among the weekend's new entries. The movie, another bid to reach the teen audience that made "Twilight" a blockbuster, is based on a popular series of young adult novels written by Cassandra Clare.

German company Constantin Films produced "Mortal Instruments" for $60 million, and Sony paid for U.S. marketing and distribution. The movie opened Wednesday and added about $4.8 million ahead of the weekend, for a five-day total of $14.1 million.

Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide distribution, said that as the weekend progressed the film saw increasing business from its base of teenage girls, and had performed within the studio's expectations.

"People are liking this film, so there's more to this story as far as the future of the film goes," Bruer said.

British sci-fi comedy "The World's End," which was accurately projected to haul in about $9 million, tells the story of five friends who reunite for a pub crawl and become the planet's only hope for survival from an alien invasion.

Noting that the film "opened this weekend against a very competitive field of new titles," Focus Features said in a statement that its fourth-place finish "indicates that the core fan audience, buoyed by strong word-of-mouth and social media buzz, helped to power the film to a successful weekend."

"World's End," which has been playing in some foreign markets since July, cost $20 million to produce, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

"You're Next," the latest entry in the inexpensive horror film genre, performed the weakest among the new entries, falling far short of pre-weekend forecasts for a $15 million opening.

The movie, which tells the story of a gang of ax-wielding murderers who wear animal masks and terrorize a family reunion, was shot for under $1 million, with Lionsgate reportedly acquiring the rights for about $2 million.

Woody Allen comedy "Blue Jasmine" expanded to 1,200 theaters and earned $4.3 million over the weekend. The film stars Cate Blanchett as a woman falling apart after her husband's financial misdeeds cause her to lose her posh New York lifestyle. Cumulative sales since its July 26 release have reached $14.8 million.

The Weinstein Company distributed "The Butler." "We're the Millers" was distributed by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc. "You're Next" was released by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Sony Corp's movie studio released "Mortal Instruments" and "Blue Jasmine." "The World's End" was released by Focus Features, a unit of Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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