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'Butler' Box Office Sales Plummet by One-Third

Image: 'Butler' Box Office Sales Plummet by One-Third

By Jennifer G. Hickey   |   Monday, 26 Aug 2013 09:56 AM

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" saw its weekend box office receipts plummet by nearly a third, from $24.6 million in its opening week to $17 million last week, after a storm of protests from Republican and veterans groups.

The film depicts a White House butler who served eight presidents, and has come under fire for its portrayal of former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy as being racially insensitive and for casting Jane Fonda as the first lady.

Supporters of President Reagan and veterans groups especially have criticized the film, with some calling for boycotts.

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Though the film remained at No. 1 in sales this weekend, film critic Christian Toto says "The Butler," as most people are calling the movie, is benefiting from slight competition at the box office and advantageous timing this summer.

"This time of year is generally considered a dumping ground for projects without major commercial appeal. It is also that rare movie that plays to more sophisticated moviegoers, unlike most of the material at the theater right now," said Toto.

The casting of Fonda to play Nancy Reagan in the movie has sparked a backlash among military veterans who cannot forgive her for her actions during the Vietnam War.

"I do think the team behind the movie made a mistake by casting people like Jane Fonda in the film. It stirred up a few news headlines, but it likely angered those who might otherwise check the movie out," said Toto, assistant editor of Big Hollywood. "Fonda is in the film for less than a few minutes, so her talents weren't needed."

Elizabethtown, Ky., movie theater owner Ike Boutwell told The News-Enterprise he would not show the movie — or any Jane Fonda film — in his cinema.

"We're telling people that if you don't like Jane Fonda, don't go see the movie," Joe Davis, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Newsmax

And former Reagan associates – including former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein and former Sens. Paul Laxalt and Richard Schweiker — told Newsmax that the depiction of the president as racially insensitive in the movie was inaccurate.

Meese told Newsmax the true Ronald Reagan "treated everyone extremely well, including people who were in a position of assisting him in one way or another."

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