The Weinstein Co. is making a big bet on Quentin Tarantino’s R-rated Nazi-killing epic Inglourious Basterds. The studio’s been in financial trouble for some time and if there was one filmmaker to help turn things around, Tarantino seems to be their guy. Sure, he had a misstep with 2007’s Grindhouse, but Inglourious Basterds is no homage to 1970s exploitation movies, nor does it run 3 hours in theaters. Between the long, lyrical passages of dialogue to the ultra-violent brutality, Inglourious Basterds is vintage Tarantino — and his fans should be out in force to see the guy back in action.
Inglourious Basterds will top the box office this weekend. Whether that will be enough to revitalize the company is anyone’s guess. Interestingly, Tarantino’s Grindhouse partner Robert Rodriguez is also releasing a film this weekend, albeit one as dramatically different from his Grindhouse feature Planet Terror as Brad Pitt is from Uma Thurman. Rodriguez is going down his familiar Spy Kids route with Shorts, a family film. This one follows a magic, wish-granting rock that falls into the hands of a group of suburbanite youths. The Tarantino and Rodriguez movies plus a slew of solid holdovers should be able to beat last year’s box office take, when Tropic Thunder led the pack for its second weekend in a row with $16.3 million.
1. Inglourious Basterds: $30 million
Kill Bill Vol. 1 opened in Oct. 2003 to $22 million, and the second installment bowed the following April to $25 million. Neither of them starred Brad Pitt as a Nazi killer. The only thing that could prevent Inglourious Basterds from hitting $30 million would be its 2 1/2 hour run time. But stranger things have happened.
2. District 9: $18 million
Only Quentin Tarantino could take the wind out of Neil Blomkamp’s critically beloved sci-fi film. If it weren’t for Tarantino going right for the jugular, District 9 would be destined for a very minimal drop its second weekend in theaters. Too bad it will be hit more severely due to the direct competition. Still, after this weekend, this $30-million movie will have earned close to $70 million, setting it up for some solid profits. See, Hollywood, not all good movies have to be big, bloated, and expensive.
3. Shorts: $10 million
Robert Rodriguez may have cast all his own children in his latest tale for the younger set, but this family affair doesn’t seem to be sitting well with critics. How it fares with broader audiences is still unknown. But a rather uninspired ad campaign may keep kids at the beach for their last few days of summer, rather than in a darkened theater.
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife: $9 million
Based on tracking, The Time Traveler’s Wife should have opened to $25 million — but reviews weren’t as strong for this Rachel McAdams-Eric Bana romance as many were expecting. Considering there isn’t that much out there for women this weekend, the adaptation of this beloved best-selling novel should hold on pretty well, dropping in the 50-percent range for the frame. Its biggest competition is going to come from Julie & Julia, which audiences adore. But based on the sheer numbers, Time Traveler should have the edge.
5. G.I. Joe: $8 million
G.I. Joe dropped 60 percent in its second weekend with the arrival of District 9. Expect it to lose as much if not more as Quentin’s juggernaut comes tearing into theaters. The fact that this movie has already crossed the $100 million is a wonder. How much more it will do will be primarily based on many kids buy tickets to this then sneak into the R-rated Basterds.
Also opening: Fox Searchlight’s Post Grad, which stars Alexis Bledel as a recent college grad who can’t land a job and is forced to move in with her family. Freestyle Releasing will open Renee Zellweger’s latest, My One and Only. This marks Zellweger’s second film of 2009 that’s destined for the bargain bin at the video store, if anyone even goes to those any longer. What happened to Zellweger’s career is really the question of the year.