Weekend Box Office (August 21 - 23, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Quentin, Brad, and Harvey lit up their stogies following the exceptional opening of their new World War II film Inglourious Basterds which topped the charts and exceeded all industry expectations to lead a robust late-summer session at the box office. The frame's three other new releases got the cold shoulder from moviegoers but the overall top ten surged ahead of last year and 2007 by more than 25%.

Scoring his best opening ever in terms of both gross and admissions, Quentin Tarantino was once again on top of the movie world with his newest feature Inglourious Basterds which bowed to a stellar $38.1M, according to final studio figures. The much-needed hit for The Weinstein Co. averaged a sizzling $12,024 from 3,165 theaters and beat out the filmmaker's previous career best delivered by 2004's Kill Bill Vol 2 which the Weinstein brothers released when they were with Miramax. That bridal revenge saga bowed to $25.1M which would be about $30M at today's prices.

Basterds, an ensemble film that co-stars Brad Pitt as a leader of an American military group out to kill Nazis during the second World War, was the fifth R-rated film to top the charts this summer and along with last weekend's District 9 gave the marketplace back-to-back $37M+ R openers. Films in the second half of August rarely debut north of $30M.

Reviews were generally positive for Tarantino's newest venture which cost a reported $70M with Universal co-financing. Friday kicked off with $14.4M, Saturday dipped 9% to $13.1M which was not uncommon for this type of film from a popular director, and Sunday dipped 19% to $10.6M.

Tarantino also scored career best debuts around the world in several countries as the Europe-set drama launched in 22 territories through Universal grossing an estimated $27.5M for a glorious global opening of $65.6M. Helped by Pitt's worldwide appeal and a largely European cast, Basterds bowed at number one in several key markets such as Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. A final global theatrical gross of three to four times the production budget could result.

Coming in behind the Nazis were the prawns of District 9. The alien drama enjoyed a solid second weekend, especially for a sci-fi film, by dropping 51% to $18.2M bumping the ten-day total to an impressive $72.8M to date. By comparison, last year's buzzworthy documentary-style monster movie Cloverfield tumbled 68% in its sophomore frame. With a relatively low $30M production cost, Sony's much-talked-about District 9 should find its way to a robust $120M or so from North America alone.

The much pricier popcorn flick G.I. Joe, still the widest film in release by far, declined by 45% and collected $12.2M in its third mission. Averaging $3,088 from an ultrawide 3,953 locations, the Paramount release has advanced its 17-day total to a solid $120.2M and still seems likely to break the $150M level.

A pair of female-skewing films with different trajectories followed. The romantic drama The Time Traveler's Wife fell a moderate 48% in its second weekend to $9.7M boosting the ten-day total to $37.2M. The cooking comedy Julie & Julia enjoyed better legs dipping only 27% in its third outing to $8.8M. Sony has banked an impressive $59.1M to date.

While Quentin was enjoying his best debut ever, his good buddy Robert Rodriguez suffered his worst opening ever for a wide release as family audiences ignored his new film Shorts which debuted to $6.4M. Ranking sixth, the Warner Bros. release averaged a weak $2,065 from a very wide 3,105 theaters. The performance did not come close to the openings of previous kidpics from the director including Spy Kids ($26.5M in March 2001) and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D ($12.6M in June 2005). Shorts tells a handful of stories about a group of boys that finds a magical rock that grants wishes.

Disney's G-Force held up well slipping 41% to $4.1M boosting the total to $107.2M. Dropping 32% to $3.5M in its sixth round was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with $290.2M. Following in ninth was the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth with $2.8M, off 38%, giving Sony $82.8M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the car comedy The Goods with an estimated $2.7M, off 52%, to only $11.2M in ten days.

Opening poorly outside the top ten was Fox's Post Grad with $2.7M from 1,959 locations for a dismal $1,354 average. The PG-13 pic stars Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls fame as a young jobless woman who recently finished college. Faring even worse was the extreme sports doc X Games 3D: The Movie which bowed to $837,216 from a very wide 1,399 theaters for an atrocious $598 average. Both new releases targeted teens and young adults in their final days of summer vacation but failed to offer anything worth paying top dollar for.

The top ten films grossed $106.5M which was up 29% from last year when Tropic Thunder remained in the top spot with $16.3M; and up 27% from 2007 when Superbad stayed at number one with $18M.

Compared to projections, Inglourious Basterds powered ahead of my $28M forecast. Shorts, Post Grad, and X Games all opened below my respective predictions of $12M, $5M, and $2M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a review of District 9 and DVD reviews of 17 Again, Race to Witch Mountain, and Gossip Girl S2 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's showdown between horror sequels Halloween 2 and The Final Destination.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Aug 21 - 23 Aug 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Inglourious Basterds $ 38,054,676 3,165 1 $ 12,024 $ 38,054,676 Weinstein Co.
2 District 9 18,213,546 37,354,308 -51.2 3,050 2 5,972 72,804,317 Sony
3 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 12,204,927 22,324,341 -45.3 3,953 3 3,088 120,235,874 Paramount
4 The Time Traveler's Wife 9,742,427 18,623,171 -47.7 2,988 2 3,261 37,165,676 Warner Bros.
5 Julie & Julia 8,800,674 12,055,918 -27.0 2,463 3 3,573 59,088,965 Sony
6 Shorts 6,410,339 3,105 1 2,065 6,410,339 Warner Bros.
7 G-Force 4,114,661 6,915,642 -40.5 2,561 5 1,607 107,224,616 Buena Vista
8 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 3,478,149 5,141,072 -32.3 1,936 6 1,797 290,238,524 Warner Bros.
9 The Ugly Truth 2,774,174 4,448,232 -37.6 1,971 5 1,407 82,811,624 Sony
10 The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard 2,710,194 5,642,137 -52.0 1,849 2 1,466 11,247,625 Paramount
11 Post Grad 2,651,996 1,959 1 1,354 2,651,996 Fox Searchlight
12 Ponyo 2,425,644 3,585,852 -32.4 927 2 2,617 8,136,515 Buena Vista
13 (500) Days of Summer 2,280,680 2,967,462 -23.1 988 6 2,308 22,077,070 Fox Searchlight
14 The Hangover 1,474,236 1,988,986 -25.9 848 12 1,738 268,277,556 Warner Bros.
15 A Perfect Getaway 1,090,615 2,860,100 -61.9 1,322 3 825 14,205,010 Universal
16 Transformers: ROTF 970,360 1,604,523 -39.5 740 9 1,311 398,441,218 Paramount
17 Funny People 922,555 3,010,755 -69.4 932 4 990 50,551,440 Universal
18 Bandslam 858,829 2,231,273 -61.5 2,121 2 405 4,435,538 Summit
19 X Games 3D: The Movie 837,216 1,399 1 598 837,216 Buena Vista
20 Orphan 802,493 1,577,433 -49.1 655 5 1,225 39,934,233 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 87,016,250 $ 97,273,380 -10.5
Top 10 106,503,767 119,101,428 -10.6
Top 20 120,818,391 137,078,149 -11.9
Top 20 vs. 2008 120,818,391 99,867,757 21.0

Last Updated: August 24, 2009 at 5:35PM ET