Weinstein hopes for glory

Weinstein Co. might be getting some much-needed good news this weekend.

The financially beleaguered independent movie studio opens Quentin Tarantino's World War II action film "Inglourious Basterds" today and all indications are that it will have a solid and potentially very strong opening. It's the first major release for Weinstein Co., which is attempting to strip away its widespread media interests and focus on movies and television.

According to people with access to pre-release audience polling, "Basterds" should sell more than $25 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend and could very well top $30 million.

The movie cost about $70 million to produce. Weinstein Co. split that cost with Universal Pictures, which is handling overseas distribution. "Basterds" is opening in 22 foreign countries this weekend, including most of Europe. Weinstein Co. and Universal will split the movie's worldwide proceeds equally.

It's likely to be the biggest opening of Tarantino's career, not accounting for ticket price inflation. His highest domestic launch so far is $25.1 million from "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," which Bob and Harvey Weinstein's old studio Miramax released in 2004.

A strong opening, however, won't guarantee a great overall performance for "Basterds."

The movie clocks in at more than 2 1/2 hours and may generate some negative reactions given its explicit violence, so word of mouth could be crucial. In addition, movie attendance in late August is typically slow. The biggest-ever opening in the second half of the month is 2007's "Superbad," which earned $33.1 million its first weekend.

Reviews for "Basterds" thus far have been largely positive, with some exceptions: Times critic Kenneth Turan called it "unforgivably leisurely, almost glacial, a film that loses its way in the thickets of alternative history and manages to be violent without the start-to-finish energy that violence on screen usually guarantees."

The movie is tracking strongest with male moviegoers. That could put it in conflict with "District 9," which opened to a very strong $37.4 million last Friday. Sixty-four percent of its opening-weekend audience was men, although Sony Pictures is hoping to attract more women.

"District 9" will almost certainly be the No. 2 movie this weekend, as three other low-budget releases are each expected to gross well under $10 million.

Fox has the comedy "Post Grad" from its defunct Fox Atomic youth unit; the Fox Searchlight specialty division has handled the film's marketing.

Disney is releasing documentary "X Games 3D: The Movie" on 3-D screens only.

Warner Bros. is releasing the family film "Shorts," directed by Robert Rodriguez, which was financed by Media Rights Capital and Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

With no new film aimed at adult women this weekend, Warner Bros. will probably be watching to see whether "The Time Traveler's Wife" demonstrates staying power by dropping less than 40% after its mediocre $18.6-million launch last weekend.



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