Box Office Guru Preview: Basterds to Bump Aliens From Top Spot

Also: Shorts, Post Grad, X Games 3D enter the weekend race.

by | August 20, 2009 | Comments

Studios rush four more films into wide release hoping to grab whatever dollars they can in the final weeks of the summer movie season. Leading the way is Quentin Tarantino‘s war saga Inglourious Basterds which is the only newcomer targeting mature adults. The director’s pal Robert Rodriguez also has a film of his own, but will aim for school kids with the family pic Shorts which features far fewer Nazis. Teen audiences get some choices too with the female-skewing drama Post Grad and the testosterone doc X Games 3D: The Movie. The overall marketplace should once again beat last year’s Olympics-affected figures by a sizable margin.

The Weinstein Co. has much riding on favorite son Quentin Tarantino’s newest film Inglourious Basterds. The R-rated tale of Jewish-American Nazi killers during World War II marks the company’s first wide opener of 2009 and first nationwide bow since last October’s Kevin Smith comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno. In fact, the company’s only real activity this year has come from the awards season drama The Reader which platformed last December and played into May grossing $34.2M over six months ($32M within this calendar year). Otherwise, the company has been sitting on the sidelines all year joining former pals MGM and Miramax as the least active major distributors of 2009.

Though co-producing a couple of hit films released by other studios, Weinstein has not seen any of its own domestic releases hit number one or even gross north of $35M in over three years. Its last chart-topper was Scary Movie 4 which bowed to $40.2M in April 2006 on its way to $90.7M. At the time, it set the record for the biggest opening for a film that failed to reach $100M. High School Musical 3 now holds that distinction with a $42M bow last October and $90.6M final. The distributor’s drought will finally end this weekend.

Tarantino has a loyal following and although many opted out of his experimental film Grindhouse with buddy Robert Rodriguez, most will want to come out and see Basterds. It’s his first full-length feature since the Kill Bill pics which opened to $22.1M in October 2003 and $25.1M in April 2004. That same audience at today’s prices would be spending $27-30M. Though an ensemble film, the marketing has wisely put Brad Pitt front and center since most of the cast includes European actors unknown to American consumers. So starpower is there, but the A-lister’s violent role is not likely to broaden the appeal of the pic beyond the QT faithful. Plus the subject matter of hunting down Hitler and Nazis has been covered many times before, even by Pitt’s Interview with the Vampire co-star Tom Cruise in last December’s Valkyrie.

Co-produced by Universal, Basterds has generated very good reviews which can only help the cause. Competition for young men will come from the second weekend of the well-liked District 9 which pulled in nearly $10M on Monday-Tuesday. But it’s been nearly six years since Tarantino fans got to enjoy an original full-length story from their boy so that core crowd should be counted on to show up in these dog days of summer. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, Inglourious Basterds could collect about $28M this weekend.

Eli Roth and Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds

Like Judd Apatow before him, Robert Rodriguez returns to the big screen with another project that furthers the acting career of his offspring. The PG-rated Shorts features a number of stories revolving around a group of boys that find a magical rock that grants wacky wishes. Tween boys make up the target audience here although girls may take some interest too. Effects are heavily used just as in the director’s Spy Kids series, but no 3D or Stallone this time around. Most summer kidpics are fading away so there’s an opportunity for Shorts to make some short-term bucks. But G.I. Joe, despite fading fast, will still offer this same demo bigger action and bigger stunts for the money. By doing seventeen jobs himself, Rodriguez keeps the costs low on all his films so turning a profit won’t be too hard. Dropping into 3,105 theaters, Shorts may take in about $12M this weekend.


Fox Searchlight’s Post Grad gets put into the late summer mix this weekend as well. The PG-13 pic stars Alexis Bledel as a new college graduate who can’t get a job and toils around home all summer. Appeal outside of its core demo of teen girls and young women is unlikely. Starpower is lacking and the story isn’t exactly going to compel a ton of ladies to the multiplexes. Poor reviews aren’t helping either. Applying to 1,958 theaters, Post Grad could collect about $5M this weekend.

Alexis Bledel and Zach Gilford in Post Grad

Olympic gold medalist Shaun White is among the athletes featured in Disney’s X Games 3D: The Movie which takes aim at Mountain Dew drinkers across North America in what is a very wide release for this type of documentary. The PG-rated pic is targeting young males looking for extreme thrills and is adding 2009’s most popular gimmick – 3D – to the mix. Fox tried to appeal to this demographic in the final days before the start of the new school year in 2005 with the motorcycle flick Supercross and was met with a weak $1.6M bow from an unnecessarily wide 1,621 theaters for an embarrassing $821 average. Disney may score more cash, but not much more. The higher ticket prices will be tough on teen wallets too. Rolling into 1,399 theaters, X-Games 3D could take in around $2M this weekend.

X Games 3D: The Movie

District 9 made a big impact last weekend with its sizable $37.4M debut. Despite being well-reviewed and liked by moviegoers, a large sophomore drop is still likely to occur especially with Tarantino stealing away part of the same crowd. A 55% drop would leave the alien flick with about $17M for the frame boosting the ten-day tally to a solid $73M. Joining the $100M club is definitely a possibility for the $30M production.

Paramount’s action offering G.I. Joe cracked the $100M mark on Monday and looks to decline by 50% this weekend to around $11M. That would give the expensive franchise pic $120M to date. The romance flick The Time Traveler’s Wife suffered a disturbing Friday-to-Saturday fall last weekend so the long-term outlook seems dim. A 45% drop would give Warner Bros. roughly $10M raising the ten-day total to $37M.

Rival chick flick Julie & Julia on the other hand has been pleasing audiences and holding up well. A 35% drop to about $8M could result giving the Sony title $57M thus far. Disney’s G-Force joined G.I. Joe in breaking the $100M mark on Monday becoming the 18th and 19th releases of the year to reach nine digits. The spy movie will have direct competition from Shorts but should still see a relatively low decline. Look for a 35% dip to $4.5M boosting the cume to $107M.

LAST YEAR: Ben Stiller‘s action-comedy Tropic Thunder remained on top with $16.3M during the weekend before the Labor Day holiday frame, generally a weak session. Leading the newcomers was the Sony comedy The House Bunny with $14.5M on its way to a solid $48.2M becoming a surprise hit. Universal’s Jason Statham actioner Death Race bowed in third with $12.6M and ended up with $36.3M. Rounding out the top five were The Dark Knight with $10.5M and Star Wars: The Clone Wars with $5.7M. Late summer clunkers opened lower on the charts with dismal results. Ice Cube‘s football pic The Longshots debuted in tenth place with $4.1M while the comedy The Rocker bowed in 13th with just $2.6M. Final tallies reached $11.5M and $6.4M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,