‘Butter’ bombs, Jennifer Garner’s track record worsens

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk

Given that we're smack dab in the middle of the presidential election, you would think moviegoers are hungry for political satire. Apparently they don't have a taste for "Butter," starring Jennifer Garner as an ambitious Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann-esque housewife.

Also starring Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Alicia Silverstone, Rob Corddry, Hugh Jackman and newcomer Yara Shahidi, "Butter" barely made blip on box office charts as it opened over the weekend, making just $72,000 -- surely not enough to even pay an actor's salary.

To be fair, the film, about competitive butter sculpting, only screened in 90 theaters across the country. Still, it's per-screen average was just $810, compared with this weekend's box office champ, "Taken 2," which got $13,720 per screen. And "The Paperboy," another star-studded limited release with Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron and John Cusack, had a $10,000 per screen average.

The backstory on "Butter" is that it has a long and troubled history: It was first previewed at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September 2011. Icy reception caused the Weinstein Company to initiate re-edits.

[Related: Bad girl Olivia Wilde takes on Palin-esque Jennifer Garner]

But that was not enough to save it from meltdown. And the film continued to receive predominately poor reviews. "Given the talent assembled for this diversion, you can't believe it's not better," wrote The Los Angeles Times' Sheri Linden. NPR's Joe Arnold was among a minority of critics who offered praise: "Butter thrives on skewering characters whose self-importance isolates them completely from the consequences of their actions."

With presumably low confidence from the studio, "Butter" was backed with minimal marketing, little press and opened in what can only be described as extremely limited release. Another strike against the film's big-screen success is the fact that it was available on-demand nearly a month before it came out. Yes, you can see it right now in your living room.

This doesn't fare well for Jennifer Garner's star power -- or lack thereof. The last time she played the lead in a film that opened to more than $20 million was "13 going on 30" all the way back in 2004. She was part of a massive ensemble cast in 2010's "Valentine's Day," which did open with $56.3 million -- still, not a huge test of her star power. Garner's last film to hit theaters, this August's "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," met a similar fate to "Butter."  The Disney film was shelved for many months before finally opening to a paltry $10.8 million.

Garner was on a roll from 2001 to 2004, most notably starring in "Daredevil" with her now-husband Ben Affleck -- a film that opened to more than $40 million. For the sake of her career, she should appear onscreen with Affleck again. But that won't be happening anytime soon, mainly because, according to her, she needs to be home with the kids when he is working on his films, which include "Argo" (in theaters this week). "So I'm not in 'Argo.' I am 'Argo''s biggest fan," she said recently [via Vulture]. "I could sit here and do twice as long of an interview about 'Argo' as I can about 'Butter,' because I am so happy for him and what he's poured into this movie. But you won't see me in it."

Watch The 'Butter' Theatrical Trailer: