(CNN) – This weekend at the box office, a superhero comedy, a Steve Jobs biopic, and a Harrison Ford thriller all got served by a“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” to be exact. The Weinstein Company’s awards-bait drama, which stars Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, topped the chart with an excellent $25 million from 2,933 theaters in its first frame. Audiences issued the well-reviewed picture an enthusiastic “A” CinemaScore grade, which sets it up for a lucrative box office run as summer draws to a close.
“The Butler” opened in the same range as “The Help,” which found $26 million in its first weekend in August 2011. Like that film, “The Butler” tells a racially charged story that is playing particularly well with older women. According to Weinstein, crowds were 60 percent female and 76 percent above the age of 35. Winfrey’s presence no doubt helped lure in many of those ticket-buyers, as did “The Butler”‘s “inspired by a true story” cachet.
Time will tell whether the film can match “The Help”‘s $169.7 million total, but given “The Butler”‘s low $30 million cost, it doesn’t need to hold particularly well to become a major success. Of course, with its positive reception and its reputation as the first Oscar contender of 2013, “The Butler” should have no trouble performing at least as well as 42, which ran away with $95 million after a $27.5 million opening earlier this year. Weinstein may have a true cash cow on its hands.