'The Butler' makes it big on box office

The movie has rung up sales of $52.3 million through its first two weekends.

FILE: US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey answers to journalist's questions at her South African girls' academy on January 13, 2012 in Henley on Klip. Winfrey founded the $40-million school for girls in 2007. Picture: AFP

LOS ANGELES - Civil rights drama Lee Daniels' The Butler took home its second US 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 US 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 US 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.