Tarantino’s ‘Basterds’ storms box office

Pic opens to $65.1 million at worldwide B.O.

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII tale “Inglourious Basterds” conquered the worldwide B.O., which was welcome news for the Weinstein Co. and Universal as the pic opened to an impressive $37.6 million domestically and $27.1 million more overseas.

Pic marks a key win that could yield a new franchise for TWC and Universal Pictures Intl., who are 50-50 partners on “Basterds.”

The timing is good for both companies. Investors have been putting pressure on TWC to shore up its financials, while U has sustained a series of box office disappointments. Worldwide opening of $65.1 million makes “Basterds” anything but.

Sony’s sleeper “District 9” held up well in its second outing, with $18.9 million from 3,050 runs for a cume of $73.5 million. “District” and an unusually healthy crop of late-summer releases helped lift domestic B.O. revs as much as 27% over the same weekend last year.

“District 9” fell 49%, a good hold considering it was competing with “Basterds” for males. Sony said this was a sign of the film’s strong playability.

Competish for men and boys didn’t end there. Paramount’s testosterone-fueled “G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra” placed No. 3 in its third frame, grossing $12.5 million from 3,953 runs for a domestic cume of $120.5 million.

The weekend’s other two new entries were Warner Bros.’ family pic “Shorts,” directed by Robert Rodriguez, and Fox Searchlight’s “Post Grad.” Each film had trouble reaching its aud, although “Shorts” did far better business at $6.7 million from 3,105 runs. “Shorts” placed No. 6 for the weekend.

“Post Grad,” a leftover title from the now-shuttered Fox Atomic, grossed only $2.8 million from 1,959 runs.

Harvey Weinstein told Daily Variety the bow of “Basterds,” which marked Tarantino’s best opening by far, showed that he and his brother, Bob, are back to doing what they do best — taking an indie film and marketing it to a mainstream audience. He said a prequel and sequel are in the offing.

Going into the weekend, “Basterds,” playing in 3,165 locations, had plenty to overcome: The majority of the film is subtitled, while its running time is 153 minutes.

But “Basterds” also had its advantages: Brad Pitt is the biggest star to appear in a Tarantino film, thereby broadening the audience. Pitt was at the center of the domestic marketing campaign. Overseas, an international cast made the film more accessible to Europeans.

When the Weinsteins launched TWC in 2005 after parting ways with Disney and Miramax, they sought to build a broad-based media company involved in a number of ventures. Some of those haven’t worked out, and Harvey Weinstein recently cited the distraction of trying to build up other businesses, ranging from homevid to apparel, as the reason for the company’s lackluster film performance.

“This is Bob and I focused and raw,” Harvey Weinstein said. “In other words, we just concentrated on ‘Basterds.’ ”

It’s been a banner week for the brothers. TWC’s TV wing is also back on the upswing with Thursday’s strong premiere of “Project Runway” on Lifetime, after the show was locked up for months in litigation over its move from rival cabler Bravo.

Among the moviegoers showing up for “Basterds,” 58% were male, which means that femmes made up a solid portion of the aud. Of the male ticketbuyers, 70% were over the age of 25.

Ten days before the film’s opening, the Weinsteins launched an intensive media campaign targeted at women. Tracking showed interest among females increasing.

“People said to us straight to our faces that we were wasting our money, and that women were never going to come to his movie,” Weinstein said.

TWC also went out of its way to make sure the pic appealed to urban auds.

Most of Tarantino’s films have included well-known African-Americans in the cast. Because “Basterds” did not, the Weinsteins asked Samuel L. Jackson to cut media spots for the pic.

“Basterds” marked a departure from Tarantino in tone and story. It includes his trademark violence, but not at the same level as his previous films.

Tarantino has made all his films with Bob and Harvey Weinstein, first at Miramax and then at TWC. The previous venture was “Grindhouse,” made up of two films: Tarantino’s “Death Proof” and Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror.” The project was a B.O. disappointment, grossing $25 million domestically.

Before “Basterds,” Tarantino’s top opener was “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” which opened to $25.1 million.

“Basterds” also marked Tarantino’s biggest international opening, although none of his films have opened day and date in such a large number of territories.

France led with $6.1 million from 500 playdates, followed by the U.K. with $5.8 million from 441 playdates and Germany with $4.3 million from 443. It was Tarantino’s best opening ever in France and Germany, where the film was shot.

“Basterds” opened 50% ahead of Nazi thriller “Valkyrie” and 30% ahead of “American Gangster.”

Universal has 42 territories yet to release over the next three months, including Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

“Basterds” easily placed No. 1 for the weekend at the international B.O.

Par’s “G.I. Joe” grossed $14 million from 6,952 locations in 51 territories for a cume of $118 million in its third sesh. China continued to lead, with the film grossing $1.9 million from 990 locations for a cume of $14 million.

Elsewhere at the domestic box office, femme-driven pics “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Julie and Julia” placed No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.

Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Time Traveler” declined 46% in its second frame to an estimated $10 million from 2,988 locations for a cume of $37.4 million in its first 10 days.

Sony’s “Julie and Julia” dipped just 25% to an estimated $9 million for a cume of $59.3 million in its third frame.

On the specialty side, Freestyle Releasing’s Renee Zellweger-Kevin Bacon starrer “My One and Only” scored the best per-location average of any title at $15,177. Film grossed an estimated $60,708 from four runs.

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