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Box Office: Glo(u)rious "Basterds" For Weinsteins; Potent "Passing"

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 24, 2009 at 4:54AM

According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" greatly exceeded expectations this weekend, grossing a stellar $37,602,000. That marks a career high opening for Tarantino, and was just short of breaking distributor The Weinstein Company's opening weekend record. Expectations had been in mid-$20 million range.
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According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" greatly exceeded expectations this weekend, grossing a stellar $37,602,000. That marks a career high opening for Tarantino, and was just short of breaking distributor The Weinstein Company's opening weekend record. Expectations had been in mid-$20 million range.

"We are extremely proud to have worked with Quentin Tarantino and the entire team behind 'Inglourious Basterds' on this fantastic opening," Harvey and Bob Weinstein said jointly. "Congratulations to Quentin, Brad Pitt, the filmmakers, the cast and especially our partners at Universal Pictures for a terrific job internationally. This is a film that wowed audiences the way that only Quentin Tarantino can. We look forward to a great run in the U.S. and continued success around the world."

The film - starring Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger and screen stealer Christoph Waltz - averaged $11,881 from its 3,165 screens. It dipped 10% on Saturday from its $14,350,000 opening night - a reasonable number for a film that likely benefited from a built-in audience of Tarantino enthusiasts. The film actually played quite similarly to last weekend's "District 9" - which also fell 10% on Saturday and ended up with a nearly identical $37,354,308 weekend haul. That film fell just under 50% this weekend, and should easily top $100 million. "Basterds" could likely find itself with a greater second weekend drop, but a $100 million final tally - Tarantino's first since 1994's "Pulp Fiction," and The Weinstein Company's first ever - is still a good possibility.

Only two Tarantino films - both editions of "Kill Bill" - have ever opened over $20 million. The second "Bill" grossed $25,105,949, holding the director's record until "Basterds" killed it. "Basterds" also became The Weinstein Company's second best opener - after the $40,222,875 "Scary Movie 4" managed in August, 2006 - and is already the distributor's third highest grossing film ever, surpassing - among others - the entire gross of the company's previous collaboration with Tarantino, "Grindhouse," in its first three days. "Grindhouse" was a double feature Tarantino made with Robert Rodriguez, who oddly enough has a 3-D family film, "Shorts," also opening this weekend (it grossed only $6,600,000 for Warner Brothers).

-continue to page 2 for information on non-"Basterds" releases, including a great opening for Spike Lee's "Passing Strange"-

A scene from Spike Lee's "Passing Strange."

Of the more indie-minded openers that reported estimates (indieWIRE doesn't usually focus on wide releases, but "Basterds" seemed like a sensible exception), Spike Lee's greatly acclaimed "Passing Strange"'s exclusive screening at New York City's IFC Center grossed $18,323, giving it the highest average for any reporting release ("Basterds" incomparably included). The film - which captures the eponymous Broadway musical show written by singer/songwriter Stew - also found the third highest opening per-theater-average for a 2009 documentary, behind "Valentino: The Last Emperor" and "Food, Inc."

Behind "Passing" were Richard Loncraine's 1950s-set comedy "My One and Only," starring Renee Zelwegger and Kevin Bacon, and Lucrecia Martel's "The Headless Women," both of which opened very strongly. Freestyle Releasing's "Only" found $60,700 from its 4 screens, averaging $15,175, while Strand Releasing's "Woman," which grossed $14,778 from its sole screen this weekend, adding to the $5,538 it had grossed since opening Wednesday.

Also opening was Vitagraph's release of Oscar-nominated German import "The Baader Meinhof Complex" - which grossed $18,000 from two screens for a $9,000 average - and IFC Films' release of Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Five Minutes of Heaven," which grossed a mild $5,200 from its sole New York City screen. "Heaven" stars Liam Neeson, and takes on the Irish political divide and won the directing award for world dramatic cinema at its Sundance premiere earlier this year.

All openers can take solace in the fact that they fell nowhere near the disastrous opening of Paramount Vantage's under-the-radar (perhaps for a reason) "The Marc Pease Experience" - curiously starring Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman. The film grossed only $3,000 from 10 theaters - averaging a pathetic $300.

Among holdovers, last weekend's top opener - Davis Guggenheim's "It Might Get Loud" - held steady on 7 screens and grossed $52,034 - slightly more than half its opening. The Sony Pictures Classics-released doc - which features rare on-the-road discussions with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White - averaged $7,433 and took its total to $198,224, a promising number for a film yet to expand beyond its initial seven screens.

After a steep first-to-second weekend drop off, Sophie Barthes existential comedy "Cold Souls" held on much better in its third frame. The Paul Giamatti-as-Paul Giamatti Sundance alum, released by Samuel Goldwyn Films, expanded from 21 to 53 screens and grossed $133,000, a 88% rise in grosses and a mild drop in average from $3,363 to $2,509. The film has totaled $340,000.

In its fifth weekend, Armando Iannucci's "In The Loop" expanded slowly to 90 screens, up from 84 last weekend. The IFC Films released held on nicely, grossing another $207,000 - just a 5% drop off from last weekend. Its $1,569,821 total gross should soon top "Summer Hours," the distributor's current highest grosser of the year.


Check back with indieWIRE Tuesday for our full box office chart and an updated article featuring final numbers and information on films that did not report estimates - including Bobcat Goldthwait’s "World’s Greatest Dad" and Lucrecia Martel’s "The Headless Woman."

indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.





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