Box office receipts for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” have fallen by almost a third amid a flurry of controversy involving cast choice, comments made by cast and the script itself.
Opening week ticket sales of $24.6 million for the saga fell to $17 million last week, according to Newsmax.
Even with the drop in receipts, “The Butler” remains the top box office draw, but this is may be due more to the timing of its release than anything.
“This time of year is generally considered a dumping ground for projects without major commercial appeal,” said film critic Christian Toto to Newsmax. “It is also that rare movie that plays to more sophisticated moviegoers, unlike most of the material at the theater right now.”
The script manipulated the remarkable true-life story of White House butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, into an unbelievable, racially-charged soap opera.
Had the producers stuck to reality, they would have offered a feel-good, American success story, something we could all use during times of almost non-existent economic growth, high unemployment and mounting crime in the minority neighborhoods of Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
In reality, Allen was raised in the segregated South, obtained a job at the White House and rose to the highest position in White House service staff, according to Townhall.
He and his wife of 65 years enjoyed a peaceful, happy life and raised a son who honorably served in the Vietnam War.
Cecil Gaines, the character played by Forest Whitaker and loosely based on Allen, is described by Michael Reagan writing for Townhall as follows:
Now guess which butler grew up on a Georgia farm, watched the boss rape his mother and then, when his father protested the rape, watched the boss put a bullet through his father’s head?
Guess which butler feels the pain of America’s racial injustices so deeply that he quits his White House job and joins his son in a protest movement?
And guess which butler has a wife (Oprah Winfrey) who becomes an alcoholic and has a cheap affair with the guy next door? (I’m surprised it wasn’t the vice president.)
Not only does the script cheapen the true-life Allen story, but it’s also designed to heighten racial tensions that have already been placed into overdrive by the current president and his attorney general.
In addition, Ronald Reagan is portrayed in the film as a racist, which is historically way off the mark, and Jane Fonda was miscast in the role of Nancy Reagan — not because she was incapable of playing the part, but because it was insensitive to have “Hanoi Jane” playing the wife of someone as patriotic as our 40th president.
And as if that weren’t enough, when Winfrey promoted the film, she claimed — then retracted — a story that she was herself recently a victim of racism at a posh Swiss boutique.
The real “Butler” story is one of hope, triumph and an overcoming of differences; the one the producers and director chose to depict on the screen was tragedy, grievance and despair.
The public is hungry for the former, because it gets entirely too much of the latter at every presidential address.