For better or worse, this weekend's opening of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds looms large in the fiscal health of its producers and distributors at the Weinstein Co.
Executives at the New York indie say their financial woes have been greatly exaggerated in the press and that the company's fate won't be sealed by the success or failure of any one release. But it's safe to say the Weinsteins would welcome a big opening weekend for the World War II picture. Prerelease tracking is auspicious, indicating must-see interest in key segments of the audience.
One of four domestic wide releases opening Friday, Basterds is tracking best with 18- to 35-year-old males. But though the R-rated, 2 1/2-hour film will draw best among moviegoers bearing Y chromosomes, topliner Brad Pitt should help draw just enough females to help Basterds reach north of $25 million through Sunday.
Tarantino's best opening was 2004's Kill Bill: Vol. 2, which unspooled with $25.1 million en route to a domestic total of $66.2 million.
Basterds follows a team of Jewish-American soldiers in Nazi-occupied France, with French actress Melanie Laurent and filmmaker/actor Eli Roth among the co-stars.
Universal is distributing the film internationally and will split all costs and proceeds evenly with the Weinsteins. The film's production costs totaled about $70 million, according to reports.
In any event, Basterds not only needs to open well but must sustain momentum over subsequent sessions. Some industryites suggest the Weinstein's scheduling of another R-rated movie, Rob Zombie's Halloween II, to open just a week after Basterds shows the indie's need to boost theatrical cash flow. But they argue that the ploy could undermine the WWII pic's second session and note that the slasher sequel's prospects will be limited by Warner Bros.' 3D horror thriller The Final Destination, opening August 28.
Elsewhere this weekend, Warner Bros.' PG-rated family fantasy Shorts looks headed for a limp debut. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids), Shorts tells the story of a mysterious object that falls into the hands of some kids from comically dysfunctional families. The cast includes William H. Macy, James Spader and Jon Cryer.
Prerelease interest appears weak, and an inaugural tally of $8 million-$10 million appears in the offing.
We're just hoping for a family following, which hasn't had a new picture in a couple weeks, Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said.
Fox Searchlight's youth comedy Post Grad, directed by Vicky Jenson (Shrek), stars Alexis Bledel (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) as a recent college grad who moves back in with her parents (Michael Keaton and Jane Lynch). A debut in the mid-single-digit millions appears likely.
A fourth wide opener, Disney's sports documentary X Games 3D: The Movie, is likely to post a similar sum during its first three days and is scheduled to play in theaters for just one week. The film focuses less on the actual X Games and more on the recent ESPN-sponsored event's participants. It will play only in 3D venues and is set for more than 1,300 auditoriums.
On an industrywide basis, this weekend will be compared with a soft $106 million year-earlier session that was topped by the $14.5 million bow of the comedy The House Bunny. The relatively easy comparison could result in Hollywood's marking a third consecutive year-over-year weekend improvement.