Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is serving up success at the box office. Starring Forest Whitaker as a longtime White House butler and Oprah Winfrey as his boozy wife, the Weinstein Co. biopic debuted in the top spot with $25 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
“We expected to do well, but we didn’t expect to do this well,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution and home entertainment for Weinstein Co., adding that The Butler is the company’s first No. 1 debut since 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.
Whether director Lee Daniels meant for it or not, his new film arrives at an important moment in our pop culture history.
After this summer of Paula Deen racial slurs, the George Zimmerman trial, stop-and-frisk outrage in New York, it is painfully clear that this country’s racial struggles are not a relic of the past, but rather a prevalent part of our country’s present.
“Sometimes we’re judged by the color of our skin rather than our actions.” says Glenda Wade, GSU library specialist.
“There’s still Jim Crowe but it’s in technological form.”
Apart from Winfrey’s unmatched marketing power, The Butler also marked the mogul’s return to the big screen for the first time since 1998’s Beloved.
“Oprah did a great job,” says senior education major Carmen Hicks.
“I think with all the circumstances happening, the movie came at a perfect time to show us how we deal with racism then and now.”
The summer typically belongs to superheroes and big-action fare, which is why Weinstein chose to release The Butler now.
“It’s different from pretty much everything else in the marketplace,” Lomis said.
“That really seemed to help.”
But the power of Oprah cannot be underestimated.
“She played her role well,” said Hicks.