Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Tarantino's Basterds Take the Top Spot

Plus, District 9 stays strong, while other openers fall flat.

by | August 23, 2009 | Comments

This weekend Quentin, Brad, and Harvey lit up their stogies following the exceptional opening of their new World War II film Inglourious Basterds which topped the charts and exceeded all industry expectations to lead a robust late-summer session at the box office. The frame’s three other new releases got the cold shoulder from moviegoers but the overall top ten surged ahead of last year and 2007 by more than 25%. Holdovers contributed too as no film in the top ten declined by more than 50%.

Scoring his best opening ever in terms of both gross and admissions, Quentin Tarantino was once again on top of the movie world with his newest feature Inglourious Basterds which bowed to a stellar $37.6M, according to estimates. The much-needed hit for The Weinstein Co. averaged a sizzling $11,880 from 3,165 theaters and beat out the filmmaker’s previous career best delivered by 2004’s Kill Bill Vol 2 which the Weinstein brothers released when they were with Miramax. That bridal revenge saga bowed to $25.1M which would be about $30M at today’s prices.

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Basterds, an ensemble film that co-stars Brad Pitt as a leader of an American military group out to kill Nazis during the second World War, was the fifth R-rated film to top the charts this summer and along with last weekend’s District 9 gave the marketplace back-to-back $37M+ R openers. Films in the second half of August rarely debut north of $30M.

Reviews were generally positive for Tarantino’s newest venture which cost a reported $70M with Universal co-financing. Friday kicked off with $14.4M, Saturday dipped 10% to $12.9M which was not uncommon for this type of film from a popular director, and Sunday is estimated to dip 20% to $10.3M.

Tarantino also scored career best debuts around the world in several countries as the Europe-set drama launched in 22 territories through Universal grossing an estimated $27.5M for a glorious global opening of $65.1M. Helped by Pitt’s worldwide appeal and a largely European cast, Basterds bowed at number one in several key markets such as Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. A final global theatrical gross of three to four times the production budget could result.

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Coming in behind the Nazis were the prawns of District 9. The alien drama enjoyed a solid second weekend, especially for a sci-fi film, by dropping 49% to an estimated $18.9M bumping the ten-day total to an impressive $73.5M to date. By comparison, last year’s buzzworthy documentary-style monster movie Cloverfield tumbled 68% in its sophomore frame. With a relatively low $30M production cost, Sony’s much-talked-about District 9 should find its way to a robust $120M or so from North America alone.

The much pricier popcorn flick G.I. Joe, still the widest film in release by far, declined by 44% and collected an estimated $12.5M in its third mission. Averaging $3,162 from an ultrawide 3,953 locations, the Paramount release has advanced its 17-day total to a solid $120.5M and still seems likely to break the $150M level.

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A pair of female-skewing films with different trajectories followed. The romantic drama The Time Traveler’s Wife fell a moderate 46% in its second weekend to an estimated $10M boosting the ten-day total to $37.4M. The cooking comedy Julie & Julia enjoyed better legs dipping only 25% in its third outing to an estimated $9M. Sony has banked an impressive $59.3M to date.

While Quentin was enjoying his best debut ever, his good buddy Robert Rodriguez suffered his worst opening ever for a wide release as family audiences ignored his new film Shorts which debuted to an estimated $6.6M. Ranking sixth, the Warner Bros. release averaged a weak $2,126 from a very wide 3,105 theaters. The performance did not come close to the openings of previous kidpics from the director including Spy Kids ($26.5M in March 2001) and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D ($12.6M in June 2005). Shorts tells a handful of stories about a group of boys that finds a magical rock that grants wishes.

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Disney’s G-Force held up well slipping just 39% to an estimated $4.2M boosting the total to $107.3M. Dropping 32% in its sixth round was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with an estimated $290.3M. Following in ninth was the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth with an estimated $2.9M, off 36%, giving Sony $82.9M to date.

Opening poorly in tenth was Fox’s Post Grad with an estimated $2.8M from 1,959 locations for a dismal $1,429 average. The PG-13 pic stars Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls fame as a young jobless woman who recently finished college. Faring even worse was the extreme sports doc X Games 3D: The Movie which bowed to an estimated $800,000 from a very wide 1,399 theaters for an atrocious $572 average. Both new releases targeted teens and young adults in their final days of summer vacation but failed to offer anything worth paying top dollar for.

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The top ten films grossed an estimated $108M which was up 31% from last year when Tropic Thunder remained in the top spot with $16.3M; and up 29% from 2007 when Superbad stayed at number one with $18M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru

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