by Christian Toto 18 Aug 2013
Lee Daniels' The Butler surprised some box office observers by trumping Kick Ass 2 for this weekend's box office crown.
Turns out the studio behind the film, The Weinstein Company, sought the help of black churches across the country to boost their box office chances.
Of those buying tickets, 39 percent were African-Americans, an especially strong turnout. TWC and other box office observers believe church groups played a key role in driving the film's opening, noting a large number of advance ticket sales. Major markets where the film overperformed in predominately black theaters include Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Atlanta and Chicago (Winfrey's home turf).
"While the biggest numbers came from the larger markets, proportionately the mid- and smaller-sized towns over-indexed, which can be attributable to some extent to the outreach that we did to the faith-based groups," says Erik Lomis, president of distribution for TWC.
The Butler is built on the true story of a longtime black servant at the White House, but the film takes frequent detours from reality thanks to a partisan script by Danny Strong (Game Change). The story does not include any overt religious themes, but the studio cut a faith-friendly trailer feature a line extolling God for churches across the country.