Oprah’s PR Blitz Helps ‘The Butler’ Open #1 With $25M: Soft Box Office As ‘Kick Ass 2′ Falls, ‘Jobs’ Biopic Dies, ‘Paranoia’ Bombs

SUNDAY 8 AM, 6TH UPDATE WRITETHRU: With one exception, this weekend was a disaster zone for three of the four newcomers at the domestic box office. Tanking big-time were Universal’s Kick-Ass 2 based on the comic book, Five Star/Open Road Films’ Jobs biopic about the Apple co-founder played by Ashton Kutcher, and IM Global/Relativity’s Paranoia starring Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford. Total moviegoing this weekend was only around $160 million, or -6% from last year, despite the uber-crowded marketplace. Even the surprise #1 this weekend, The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, opened with $25 million which was down from the $30+M Hollywood projected when the weekend started. ”Everything is coming in softer,” one studio exec warned me Friday night. Love her or hate her, co-star Oprah Winfrey and her big media blitz helped open the pic even if it did little to help her public image by providing more dirt for her detractors. Yet a survey by Fandango found that 72% of Butler ticket-buyers claimed Oprah’s involvement increased their interest in seeing the film which was her first movie role in 15 years. But The Butler still trailed the opening weekend grosses of two recent and similarly race- and civil rights-themed adult pics: 42 and The Help. No one, and certainly not The Weinstein Company, expected director Lee Daniels’ or screenwriter Danny Strong’s biopic (playing in 2,933 theaters) to double its $15M weekend projection much less land on top of the weekend box office. But on Thursday morning it already was the #1 ticket-seller on both Fandango and MovieTickets – a welcome event for such a modest $25M negative cost film. Its 73% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews and ’A’ CinemaScore from audiences surely helped word of mouth as much as Oprah. (Note that in 1998. at the height of her syndicated power when she could sell anything to anyone, Oprah starred in and produced the film flop Beloved. Now she’s on her struggling cable network. But I’m assured she had no financial investment in the film nor contributed into the P&A nor bought up advance tickets in bulk like the rumors claimed.)

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Forest Whitaker, Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, and Cuba Gooding Jr helped overcome the uneven script that – depending on your POV – is dumbed-down or condescending, historically important or filled with historical inaccuracies. But the stunt casting of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan has caused considerable Red State outrage on social media. Like 42 and The Help, this pic was marketed first to African-Americans through outreach in those faith-based communities. Then the campaign widened to the art house crowd and curious general audiences. Rival studios initially speculated that The Butler‘s grosses would be frontloaded since it was so dependent on pre-sales. But its Saturday number went up +10% over Friday’s. The film’s genesis began with a Washington Post profile of the longtime White House black butler Eugene Allen that was optioned by Sony Pictures producer Laura Ziskin. When she died of cancer 3 weeks before shooting began, Cassian Elwes and Pam Williams met with Daniels and, together with CAA, scrambled to put together financing. In all 28 investors came together including Buddy Patrick, Sheila Johnson, Michael Findley, and Len Blavatnick. Harvey Weinstein and his TWC boarded late in the production and banked $4M to help finish the film. Then Harv “helped edit” – we all know what that means – with Daniels. Initially The Butler was a fall film to platform for awards consideration. “But when it tested through the roof, we decided then that we needed to go wide. And we saw a gap in the schedule for adult fare in the summer,” an insider tells me. “In our deal we had a $20M P&A cap, and we had to go to the investor group to get the cap raised to $30M in order to go wide.” I’m told 100% of the P&A money is TWC’s. Along the way, Harvey orchestrated free publicity as he battled Warner Bros over the pic’s title.

Pre-release tracking predicted that Universal’s superhero action-comedy Kick Ass 2 (playing in 2,940 theaters) would be the #1 film this weekend as it made steady gains in key areas with solid interest indicated from younger audiences and males in particular. Instead, it bombed with only $13.6M after looking to open #1, then #2, then #3 on Friday - trailing the Warner Bros/New Line holdover comedy We’re The Millers. Not even its ‘B+’ CinemaScore could help word of mouth after critics savaged it with only 29% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes because it fell short of the original. Fanboys decided to stay away. I predict debate will rage about whether this sequel based on Mark Millar/John S. Romita’s comic book was necessary. Even the 2010 original’s $19.8M opening was considered dismal, only to make up for it as a hot DVD sale and rental and digital download because of its R-rated irreverence and style. Wrongly, the studio believed “there was a committed fan base that could be activated as a core audience for a sequel,” as a Universal exec emailed me. So the studio handled worldwide distribution for the further adventures of Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz  and Christopher Mintz-Plasse respectively). Vigilante crusader Colonel Stars and Stripes is played by Jim Carrey who kicked up a fuss by proclaiming he wouldn’t promote the film because of its ultra-violence. A few weeks later, he got onboard – but not before generating a ton of bad publicity for the pic. (He didn’t make himself very popular in Hollywood with this stunt. Let’s see if his career continues to crater.) From a screenplay by director Jeff Wadlow, pic also reteamed producers Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack and David Reid. It was independently financed for only $28M, then acquired by Universal before production began in September of 2012. Film opens day-and-date in 18 international territories including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany and grossed $6.3M at 1,500 dates.

Flopping in wide release (2,381 theaters) was Open Road Films’ Jobs, the much-publicized biopic about the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher. It came in only #7 with a meager $6.7M despite a plethora of TV ad buys. Ashton just isn’t a movie star, period, and the ‘B-’ CinemaScore didn’t generate any helpful word of mouth for the pic directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) and scripted by first-time screenwriter Matt Whitely. Open Road acquired Jobs just before it premiered at Sundance in January from Five Star Feature Films which financed the $12M production. Rotten Tomatoes critics only gave it 24% positive reviews because of its superficial made-for-TV depiction of a complex creative and business icon. Still it’s surprising how many Apple devotees stayed away despite the marketing’s psychographic targeting to them. And digital stunts included the launch of the first-ever Instagram movie trailer and Kutcher ringing the bell at the NY Stock Exchange.

Another tech pic tanked. Dropping from #10 on Friday to #13 by Sunday was the IM Global/ Reliance produced thriller Paranoia (distributed by Relativity into 2,459 U.S. theaters with EOne releasing in Canada). Even starring Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, and Gary Oldman who all are good in the film, it made only $3.5M or about half what was projected. Both audiences and critics hated on it with a ‘C’ CinemaScore and 4% Rotten Tomatoes positive reviews. ”I think Relativity’s marketing department screwed up,” one insider tells me. “They tried to focus on the youth audience and teen girls in particular, and it isn’t that kind of movie at all. Also, IM Global picked this date, and they never should have opened this kind of film in the summer.” Read More »

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Hot Comic-Con Trailer: ‘Kick Ass 2′

By | Friday July 19, 2013 @ 5:59pm PDT

Ross Lincoln contributes to Deadline’s Comic-Con coverage.

Kick Ass 2 promises to be every bit as profane and violent as its predecessor, as evidenced by an expanded trailer which premiered today at Comic-Con. Featuring never before seen footage, the … Read More »

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Comic-Con: Sony Acquiring ‘Go Fast’ For ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Helmer Jeff Wadlow

By | Wednesday July 17, 2013 @ 4:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures is acquiring Go Fast, an action vehicle that will be written by Rich Wilkes for Kick-Ass 2 helmer Jeff Wadlow to direct. I’m told that the title refers to the fast boats that are used by DEA agents to thwart drug smugglers on the high seas. What The Fast And The Furious did with cars, the film intends to do for these lightning-fast water crafts. Broken Road’s Todd Garner is producing.

This becomes the second big studio project for Wadlow, who is also writing to direct X-Force, another spinoff of Marvel’s X-Men franchise, which is being developed by 20th Century Fox. Wadlow directed his first studio film in Kick-Ass 2 after writing the sequel and getting the blessing to direct it from rights holder Matthew Vaughn, who helmed the original. Wadlow this week brings Kick-Ass 2 to San Diego, introducing the cast at Comic-Con. Sony’s Sam Dickerman and Hannah Minghella bought Go Fast for Sony, and Broken Road’s Jeremy Stein brought it in. Wadlow is repped by WME, Wilkes by Verve and Management 360. Read More »

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Opinion: Jim Carrey’s Refusal To Promote ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Is A Cop-Out, Even If It Has Elevated Interest In An Underdog Sequel

By | Tuesday June 25, 2013 @ 8:34am PDT
Mike Fleming

Jim Carrey‘s shocking refusal to promote Kick-Ass 2 might the greatest possible favor he could have done for that movie in the short term. Right after Carrey made his pronouncement on Twitter, the volume of young potential ticket buyers who clicked on the trailer experienced an EKG-level spike between Sunday and yesterday. Carrey’s Colonel character is all over that trailer and his performance looks bizarre and funny. Additionally, attention to Carrey’s Twitter was at or near the top of Twitter trending following his Kick-Ass 2 post. “He probably did more to raise awareness for this movie by refusing to promote it than if he’d done a round of talk shows,” said a knowledgeable observer. Despite this, I feel the need to call bullshit on his moralistic stance, the idea he cannot support Kick-Ass 2 because he can’t condone its violence in the wake of the massacre of children in Newtown, CT by a deranged kid who killed his mother and used her arsenal of legally obtained semi-automatic weapons to perpetrate a horrifying murder spree. I’ve been a big Jim Carrey fan since even before a new superstar comedy career was born with Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. But I think he’s flat-out wrong here, and short-sighted.

You might recall that Carrey unexpectedly sought out this sequel because he was such a big fan of the original. He even wore the Kick-Ass costume in this duet with Conan O’Brien. That film he liked so much was just as cartoon violent as this sequel. Carrey has not only turned his back on his cohorts, he completely blows an opportunity to use this movie as a platform to discuss his opinions on: the availability of guns; an NRA lobby that has so co-opted federal lawmakers that that they would not in the wake of Newtown enact measures to simply require better background checks in gun sales; the depiction of gun violence in movies (The New York Times astutely notes that nearly every star in every summer movie poster is holding a gun); and how this toxic stew leaves the country just waiting for the next massacre by a troubled person with easy access to semi-automatic weapons. Read More »

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‘Kick-Ass 2′ Star Jim Carrey Bashes Film’s Violence — Comics Writer/EP Mark Millar Hits Back

By | Sunday June 23, 2013 @ 5:15pm PDT

Kick-Ass 2 Jim CarreyUPDATE: Kick-Ass comics writer and Mark Millar, who exec produced both the 2010 film and its sequel, responded to Jim Carrey today on his own blog: “[I'm] baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay eighteen months ago. Yes, the body-count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us HIT-GIRL was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much… This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese [sic] and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence… Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can’t be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action-movie.”

PREVIOUSLY, SUNDAY PM: Jim Carrey gleefully puts down baddies with a baseball bat and an attack dog in Universal‘s Kick-Ass 2 as a vigilante named Colonel Stars and Stripes. (“Try to have fun – otherwise what’s the point?” he smirks in the film’s trailer.) But in light of December’s Sandy Hook mass shooting, the comic star has publicly denounced the film’s violent content – much of which involves the film’s two teenage protagonists. @JimCarrey: I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence,” he Tweeted Sunday. “My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Kick-Ass 2′

By | Tuesday June 18, 2013 @ 8:55pm PDT

The costumed Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl continue to protect the city while knocking the crap out of the bad guys in this follow-up to the 2010 pseudo-superhero flick. This year’s model sees our heroes inspiring a number of copycat do-gooders, including the masked Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). But … Read More »

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CinemaCon: Universal’s Sequel Machine Pays Off With Exhibitors

Pete Hammond

It was Universal Pictures’ turn in the spotlight this morning as Chairman Adam Fogelson served up a look at the studio’s sequel-packed summer slate and a summary of the studio’s 2012 hits and even big miss Battleship. He announced sequels in … Read More »

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Hot International Trailer: ‘Kick-Ass 2′

By | Wednesday March 27, 2013 @ 5:31am PDT

The new international trailer for Kick-Ass 2 is Hit Girl-centric, focusing on Chloë Grace Moretz‘s orphaned character as she enters high school and deals with issues of identity. The follow-up to 2010′s original is directed by Jeff Wadlow and also stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Red Band

By | Wednesday March 13, 2013 @ 9:30am PDT

Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) are back for the follow-up to the original 2010 pic, which made $48.1M domestic for Lionsgate. Kick-Ass 2, directed by Jeff Wadlow and now from Universal, also stars Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes, … Read More »

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Universal To Release ‘R.I.P.D.’ In 3D, Moves ’2 Guns’, ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Dates

By | Thursday February 28, 2013 @ 5:00pm PST

EXCLUSIVE: Universal‘s supernatural action-adventure R.I.P.D. will now be released in 3-D, the studio announced today as it made a flurry of updates to its summer schedule. However, the Dark Horse comic adaptation starring … Read More »

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TOLDJA! Jim Carrey Takes Colonel Role In ‘Kick-Ass 2′

By | Tuesday September 4, 2012 @ 10:53am PDT
Mike Fleming

Jim Carrey Kick-Ass 2BREAKING: Jim Carrey has been set to play the role of The Colonel in the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall. Deadline broke this August 20 when Carrey had the offer … Read More »

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Claudia Lee Gets ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Role

By | Thursday August 30, 2012 @ 9:18am PDT
Mike Fleming

Claudia Lee just got a co-starring role in Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Walls, the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel for Universal that is being produced by Matthew Vaughn and Tarquin Pack. Lee is about to start the second season of the … Read More »

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Jim Carrey Courted For ‘Kick-Ass 2′

By | Monday August 20, 2012 @ 5:36pm PDT
Mike Fleming

I am not sure he’s going to say yes, but Jim Carrey is being courted by Universal to play a showy supporting role in Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall, the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s crazy superhero movie. … Read More »

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Morris Chestnut Books ‘The Hive’ And ‘Kick-Ass 2′

By | Wednesday August 15, 2012 @ 7:32am PDT
Mike Fleming

Morris Chestnut has been set for the male lead of Sony’s The Hive, opposite Halle Berry. He plays her love interest, a cop, in the Brad Anderson-directed thriller that also stars Abigail Breslin. At the same time, he … Read More »

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Watch Out Ant-Man; ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Unleashes Insect Man

By | Wednesday August 15, 2012 @ 7:30am PDT
Mike Fleming

Robert Emms is playing the role of Insect Man in the Jeff Wadlow-directed Kick-Ass 2. The British actor most recently starred opposite Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy in the indie film Broken, which premiered at Cannes. Kick-Ass 2 marks his … Read More »

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Donald Faison In ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Talks

By | Wednesday August 8, 2012 @ 11:06am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Kick-Ass 2 is very close to getting its Dr. Gravity. Donald Faison is in negotiations to join the sequel in the role of the baseball bat wielding masked character who fights alongside Kick-Ass. The … Read More »

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John Leguizamo Sets Two Films Before Making ABC Pilot

By | Monday July 30, 2012 @ 5:10pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: John Leguizamo, who just made a deal to star in the ABC pilot Only Fools and Horses, has just signed for roles in the Ridley Scott-directed The Counselor and the Jeff Wadlow-scripted Kick-Ass 2. In The Read More »

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Comic-Con: Mintz-Plasse Says ‘Kick-Ass 2′ To Start In September; ‘ParaNorman’ Panel Wins Over Fans

By | Friday July 13, 2012 @ 11:42am PDT

Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse was on hand today for Focus Feature’s ParaNorman panel in Hall H but broke some news of his own. Making fans happy, he said Kick-Ass 2 should start shooting in September. In his words: “You heard it from me first, and now I’m probably gonna get my butt kicked.” Deadline reported earlier that Universal Pictures was stepping in to finance the film with Jeff Wadlow directing his script. Matthew Vaughn directed the 2010 original. Read More »

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Universal Close To ‘Kick-Ass 2′ Deals With Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Others

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After Deadline revealed that Universal Pictures was stepping in to finance Kick-Ass 2 with Jeff Wadlow directing his script, the big question was whether the original Kick-Ass cast of Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, among … Read More »

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