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First look: 'Basterds' opens to a glorious $37.6 million

August 23, 2009 |  8:49 am


"Inglourious Basterds" has given the Weinstein Co. a much-needed jolt, opening to a very strong studio-estimated $37.6 million at the domestic box office.

That's far and away the biggest opening for director Quentin Tarantino, as well as the highest first-weekend gross for a movie in the typically slow second half of August, exceeding the $33.1 million made by 2007's "Superbad," even accounting for ticket-price inflation.

In particularly good news for the movie's backers, the decline in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday was 10%. That's a relatively modest drop for an action movie whose director has a devoted fan base that turns out opening day and is a sign that word of mouth is solid despite some graphic violence and mixed reviews.

The movie also started off well overseas, where it was distributed by Universal, selling a studio-estimated $27.5 million worth of tickets in 22 territories.

Weinstein Co. and Universal split the movie's production budget of about $70 million and will evenly divide the movie's box-office revenue, typically about half of ticket sales. Both studios are very much in need of a hit -- Universal after a summer with several box office busts and Weinstein Co. as it struggles to regain stable financial footing.

"District 9" managed a decent hold despite "Basterds" taking much of the box-office oxygen among action fans. It declined 49% from its big opening to $18.9 million, according to distributor Sony Pictures. That brings total domestic ticket sales for the Peter Jackson-produced science fiction movie, which cost only $30 million to produce, to $73.5 million.

Warner Bros.' romantic drama "The Time Traveler's Wife" dropped 46% to $10 million on its second weekend, a less encouraging number since it opened to a so-so $18.6 million and there were no new directly competing movies at theaters.

Of the weekend's other three new movies in wide release, only the Robert Rodriguez-directed family film "Shorts" avoided disaster, grossing $6.6 million. Warner Bros. distributed the film for financiers Media Rights Capital and Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

Fox's "Post Grad," a leftover film from defunct youth division Fox Atomic, earned a very weak $2.8 million.

Disney's documentary "X-Games 3D" proved a total bust, earning only $800,000 despite playing exclusively in 3-D theaters, which carry ticket-price surcharges.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Denis Menochet, left,  and Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds." Credit: Francois Duhamel / the Weinstein Co.