Either the Weinstein Company did an extremely good job of managing expectations or box office prognosticators simply underestimated the potential of a director/brand name with a strong suit for entertaining a large swath of the moviegoing public, a premise with fairly proven guy appeal (revenge + WWII), and the additional gravy of an A-lister in a juicy, semi-lead role. In any case, for the second time in as many weeks, a very well-reviewed genre film has significantly over-performed and “Inglourious Basterds” has raked in an exceedingly healthy $37.6 million, say the box office estimates promulgated by THR, Nikki Finke, Variety, Box Office Mojo, etc.

Concerns which I brought up last time that the latest from Quentin Tarantino might be too cinema-esoteric for mainstream audiences have apparently proven to be a non-issue, at least for weekend #1. It’s outstanding foreign performance totaling $27.5 million is no surprise at all, especially given the subject matter and Tarantino’s  choice — which almost certainly made his job harder — to film the movie in several different languages rather than opting for the traditional mid-Atlantic or vaguely nation-specific accents we usually see in American-shot international tales. These are both, by the way, significant financial personal bests for Tarantino. Of course, that’s not “Transformers” numbers, but people will actually still likely be watching this one twenty years from now and probably longer, which means it will be making money for the putatively on-the-edge Harvey Weinstein and Universal for that time as well.

District 9
The same is also probably true in re: Tristar and Sony for this week’s #2 performer and that other transnational “well reviewed genre film” I mentioned above, “District 9.” The South Africa-set, politically charged violent sci-fi action piece brought in $18.9 million for a drop of just under 50% from last week, as there proves to be a market for combining a certain amount of brains with violent brawn. That’s even more impressive given the stiff competition from “Basterds” for largely the same audience.

As Nikki Finke points out, this is also a cheaper film than Tarantino’s in terms of not having to give big hunks of the gross to a big name director or star, though executive producer Peter Jackson gets a small taste for having the good sense and guts to strongly back Neill Blomkamp’s pony. La Finke also mentions a predicted 70% drop for “Basterds” next week because of “most” (????) colleges going back into session next week, but I wouldn’t expect that large a decline — unless the word of mouth indicates second-thoughts from filmgoers. Of course, these days, we’re supposed to be able to pick up more quickly on that via word of tweet.

Robert Rodriguez's
As for the new releases that accompanied the basterds, they were pretty much left to rage against their marketing departments in their bunkers. “Shorts,” QT buddy Robert Rodriguez’s comedy aimed at the families who’d be steering far away from violent fare, apparently didn’t  have much more than some limited family appeal to trade on. It appeared in the #6 spot with an estimated $6.6 million. (Satan’s box office ranking!) That was, however, a veritable mint compared to the pitiful $2.8 million estimate for the comedy “Post Grad” from 1,959 venues.

And that was wealth beyond measure compared to the shockingly pathetic estimated take of the gimmick-based sports doc, “X-Games 3-D: The Movie.” Audiences apparently either didn’t hear about it, were too distracted by other films, or smelled some intense lame. Let’s call it a combination of all of those. It failed to even break a million with a sub-sub-sub poor estimated take of $800,000 on 1,399 screens. That means an 18th place showing for the one-week only release, which now must seem seven days too long to Disney/ESPN.

That also means the film from first-timer Steve Lawrence had a sub-horrible per-screen average of $572. Compare that to, say, the $3,654 average for “Julie and Julia” in the #5 spot, still going strong in its fifth week on the strength of strong mature/lady appeal. Only one movie in the top twenty had a worse per-screen performance, and that was last week’s well-regarded marketing disaster, “Bandslam.” That’s what I call extreme.