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Oprah's 'Butler' serves up box office win ahead of 'One Direction'

Actor Forest Whitaker, star of the new film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," poses at the film's premiere in Los Angeles, California August 12, 20
Actor Forest Whitaker, star of the new film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," poses at the film's premiere in Los Angeles, California August 12, 20

By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud

(Reuters) - Civil rights drama "Lee Daniels' The Butler" continued to serve up box office victories with $20 million in ticket sales over the long U.S. Labor Day weekend, leading Hollywood's box office for the third straight weekend.

Hollywood box office tracking services had given the crown to the concert film "One Direction: This is Us," featuring the red hot British boy band, based on estimates on Sunday morning, before the U.S. holiday on Monday.

"The Butler," the story of an African American man who served as a White House butler for eight U.S. presidents, has grossed $79.3 million in ticket sales since opening on August 16, according to Hollywood.com on Monday.

The film, distributed by the Weinstein Company, is generating awards season buzz and stars Forest Whitaker as the title character opposite Oprah Winfrey as his hard-drinking wife.

"One Direction: This is Us," a Sony Pictures/TriStar release, led the box office through Sunday but fell behind when "The Butler" enjoyed strong Monday showings. Sony also reduced its three-day estimate to $15.8 million from $17 million for the first three days.

The clean-cut five-singer group, which finished third in the British version of the musical competition show "The X Factor" in 2010, has sold more than 10 million albums and 19 million singles, according to its management company's website.

"'One Direction' sprinted out of the gate and had a huge opening day, and as is typical of the young moviegoer, they rushed out to see the film immediately," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. "Older audiences take their time and that's evident by 'The Butler's' steady rise."

Warner Bros' Jennifer Aniston hit, "We're the Millers," which also stars Jason Sudeikis in the drug smuggling comedy, was third with $15.9 million in ticket sales over the long weekend. It totaled $112.9 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Walt Disney's animated film "Planes" was fourth for over the holiday weekend with ticket sales of $10.7 million, and has total ticket sales of $73.8 million.

"Instructions Not Included," starring and directed by Mexican television star Eugenio Derbez, finished the weekend with ticket sales of $10 million, the highest-grossing Spanish-language films ever, according to movie site Box Office Mojo.

The film is distributed by Pantelion, a co-venture of the Lionsgate movie studio and Mexican television network Televisa, and was released in 347 domestic theaters compared with around 3,000 for the leaders.

Pantelion intends to expand the movie's run to around 500 theaters this week, said Pantelion Chief Executive Paul Presburger.

"Our goal is to focus more on the general market and generate the same kind of word of mouth that has made this film so successful," said Presburger.

"Getaway," Warner Bros' low-budget high speed action film starring Ethan Hawke as a former race car driver racing to save his kidnapped wife, the week's other major new film, opened with $5.5 million in ticket sales, for tenth place, according to Hollywood.com.

Warner Bros is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

(Reporting by Ronald Grover)

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