‘OUATIH’ opened with $40 million at the box office, is that surprising?

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ouatih poster

The only Quentin Tarantino film I’ve never watched is Django Unchained. I was curious about it but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t force myself to watch it. I read a lot of stuff about how violent and cruel it was so I just skipped it. I did see The Hateful Eight in the theater and I came out of it largely disappointed. As a director, Tarantino undeniably has massive skills. But as a storyteller, I feel like he’s been struggling for a time. All of this to say, I still haven’t made up my mind about whether I’ll see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I’m curious about the “vintage Hollywood” aspect of it, especially since every review mentions that the film is Tarantino’s love letter to late ‘60s films and television. But the Manson Family aspect of it just seems… ugh. And I read some spoilers about the ending and I’m just… not feeling it. Still, OUATIH ended up performing well at the box office, perhaps even better than expected:

Sony’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is riding toward a $40 million opening at the domestic box office after grossing $16.9 million on Friday — writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s biggest opening day, not adjusted for inflation. And for the full weekend, the critically acclaimed, R-rated movie looks to narrowly edge out Inglourious Basterds to mark Tarantino’s best opening, thanks to his ardent fan base and the allure of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt together on the big screen for the first time. One surprise: Once Upon a Time received a B CinemaScore from moviegoers. His two most successful films, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchanged, received an A-.

Tarantino’s ninth film — and the first made without the aid of Harvey Weinstein — is billed as the only original tentpole of the summer for adults, which is otherwise dominated by franchise installments and other branded IP. Speaking of the power of brands, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will still come in No. 2 behind Disney family powerhouse The Lion King, which is expected to earn $77 million-$80 million in its sophomore outing. The Jon Favreau-directed pic topped Friday’s chart with $22.3 million.

Heading into the weekend, Sony remained conservative in predicting a $30 million opening for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But rivals and other box office analysts projected a start in the $40 million to $50 million range. Since adults don’t rush out on the first weekend, the bigger question is the movie’s staying power. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood cost at least $90 million to produce after tax rebates and incentives, likely making it Tarantino’s most expensive film. It’s getting the widest release of the maverick filmmaker’s career, or more than 3,500 theaters.

Yes, most of Tarantino’s films are about the longer theatrical runs and word-of-mouth and “I’ll see it on a lazy summer Sunday.” A $40 million opening sounds better than I expected, and anyone who thought it would open with more than $50 million… well, it’s a hard-R-rating and that really matters. Interestingly enough, THR ran their box office report alongside a thoughtful column about Tarantino and how he uses violence against women as a punchline – go here to read. The columnist, Joelle Monique, makes some good points. I just feel like… maybe Tarantino’s primary audience (the generation that saw Reservoir DogsPulp Fiction in our teens and 20s) has outgrown him and outgrown his cinematic vision of just violence, pulp, historical revisionism, etc?

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio back in their car on the set of 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
Queen Elizabeth II

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