Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

This is the second of three weekends with only one major wide release – thank heavens!—although this weekend’s offering might have difficulty dethroning Disney’s Lion Kingin its second weekend.


Sony Pictures

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Emile Hirsch, Mike Moh, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Damian Lewis, Lorenza Izzo, Al Pacino, Bruce Dern
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Kill Bill, Jackie Brownand more)
MPAA Rating: R

If you’re a Quentin Tarantino fan, it’s always a treat when he returns with one of his sporadic but always enjoyable offerings every four or five years. If you hadn’t heard, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s ninth movie or second to last if you don’t like his work and can’t wait for him to go away.

This one is pretty juicy as it’s his look at old school Hollywood, specifically in the late ‘60s leading up to the Manson murders of actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of Roman Polanski. Rather than being a remake of Helter Skelter(look it up), this is more about a fading movie star played by Leonardo DiCaprio and how his stuntman, played by Brad Pitt, falls in with the Manson gang… sort of. Apparently, saying anything more about this movie enters spoiler territory.

Hollywood is almost a greatest hits of past Tarantino collaborators from DiCaprio (who appeared in Django Unchained) and Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) to Kurt Russell andBruce Dern from Hateful Eight and even Michael Madsen, who first teamed with Tarantino for his debut Reservoir Dogs.  Most of the latter actors only have small parts in Once Upon a Time…, basically amounting to a single scene, similar to Al Pacino, because it mostly focuses on the two leads.

The real secret weapon for this movie is likely to be Oscar-nominated actor Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, though, because she continues to impress with her only journey to stardom, between playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad($750 million global box office), a role she’ll reprise in next year’s Birds of Prey movie, or her Oscar nomination for the biopic I, Tonya. It’s really Harley Quinn that has found Robbie a lot of fans, and some of them might go see Once Upon a Time…  just for her.

The movie also includes Dakota Fanning and Margaret Qualley, as two of Manson’s girls, but the movie also includes a mix of vets like Bruce Dern, Al Pacino and Luke Perry from 90120 with newcomers like Mike Moh as Bruce Lee and Damon Herriman  as Charles Manson. Plus there are lots and lots of other cameos and actors in smaller roles, so it’s basically about as “Tarantinoesque” as a Tarantino movie can possibly get.

Before we go, I might as well do some of those handy-dandy comparisons, so you know what we’re working with here:

The Hateful Eight (Dec. 25, 2015)
$15.7 million opening*; $54.1 million total
(*after a single week playing in 70mm in 100 theaters)

Django Unchained (Dec. 25, 2012)
$30.1 million opening; $162.8 million total 

Inglourious Basterds (August 21, 2009)
$38 million; $120.5 million total

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (April 16, 2004)
$25.1 million; $66.2 million total 

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Oct. 10, 2003)
$22.1 million; $70 million total

That’s probably good enough for now.

What’s interesting is that Once Upon a Time… is only Tarantino’s second summer release, as most of his movies have been released towards the end of the year, more in serious awards territory.  It’s actually paid off going back to 1994’s Pulp Fiction, which received seven Oscar nominations – winning for screenplay – and was the first of Tarantino’s movies to gross $100 million.

The two movies that really need to be looked at more carefully are 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, a summer release starring Pitt, and Django Unchained, a Christmas release starring DiCaprio. That’s probably all the proof right there that Tarantino being paired two of the biggest box office superstars – both of them appearing in Once Upon a Time…— makes one think that that level of star power could have more to do with getting people into seats than Tarantino alone. Pitt’s last summer release was 2013’s World War Z, which opened with $66.4 million. Dicaprio’s recent movies regularly gross $100 million, such as 2015’s The Revenant(for which he won an Oscar) and The Wolf of Wall Street two years earlier. Both are such big stars that they barely star in one movie every couple years which adds another anticipation factor to Once Upon a Time…

Tarantino’s popularity is likely to be helped by the recent rerelease of The Hateful Eight as a four-part Netflix series a few months back, since that gives quick access of Tarantino’s work to a younger audience that might get them interested in Hollywood.

What’s odd about the whole Tarantino story is that he was about to be done-for with the whole #MeToo movement especially when Harvey Weinstein was taken down by it. As some of you might know, Weinstein has released every single previous Tarantino movie to date, so he had to scramble to find another distributor just as he began to make Once Upon a Time… Sony stepped forward as did Harry Potter producer David Heyman, although one has to wonder whether the absence of Weinstein will be felt in the bigger picture.

Even so, the marketing for Hollywoodhas been so great, especially the trailers and commercials that tell you all you’ll need to know: Tarantino! DiCaprio! Pitt! Robbie! Usually, Tarantino’s movies tend to veer towards male audiences, maybe because he tends to play in such male-dominated genres like war movies and Westerns (but always with at least one or two great woman characters!) but making a movie about Hollywood celebrities (starring a few of them) will immediately make it more interesting to women who might not necessarily be Tarantino fans.

Very confident in the film, Sony brought the movie to the Cannes Film Festival, and the reviews were mostly positive, although there are some spoilery things in the movie that might make people wait to read about the movie before seeing it. (Look for Kyle Pinion’s review later this week!)

If you figure that Inglourious Basterds could open with $38 million ten years ago just with Brad Pitt, you have to figure that having DiCaprio and potentially amore mainstream subject should allow Tarantino’s ninth movie to open somewhere in the low $40 million (tracking has it quite a bit lower) and possibly match Django as the filmmaker’s highest grossing movie.

That said, there’s just no way that Hollywood can surpass Disney’s The Lion King in its second weekend, because even with a fairly big 55% drop, it’s still gonna make $85 million or more in its second weekend. Tarantino’s movie will probably affect the R-rated fare more than the family movies. Also, look for A24’s The Farewell, starring Awkwafina to make its break into the top 10 before its nationwide release next week.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. The Lion King (Walt Disney) – $88 million -53%
  2. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Sony) – $42.3 million N/A
  3. Spider-Man: Far from Home (Sony) – $10 million -52%
  4. Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar) – $10 million -35%
  5. Yesterday (Universal) – $3.6 million -28%
  6. Crawl (Paramount) – $2.9 million -52%
  7. Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures) – $2.6 million -35%
  8. Stuber (20thCentury Fox) – $1.9 million -54%
  9. The Farewell (A24) – $1.5 million -50%
  10. Annabelle Comes Home (New Line/WB) – $1.1 million -55%

It’s another light weekend for limited releases, although the drama Skin from Oscar-winning filmmaker Guy Nattiv that features Jamie Bell as a white supremacist having second thoughts. Based on a true story, the movie also stars Vera Farmiga, Danielle Macdonald, Bill Camp and Mike Colter aka Luke Cage. I’ll have an interview with Bell sometime this week.Magnolia is also releasing a great doc called Mike Wallace is Hereabout the famed journalist famous for his “gotcha!” interviews.

Next week is another week with just one new movie but it’s Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, pitting Dwayne Johnson with Jason Statham and Vanessa Shaw against Idris Elba. Woo!

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