Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may score Quentin Tarantino’s biggest box office opening this weekend. Bursting onto the scene with indie darling Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Tarantino has gone on to become one of the most popular auteurs of his generation. Over the past two decades, Tarantino has put his unique spin on everything from gangster pictures (Pulp Fiction) to revenge thrillers (Kill Bill) to war dramas (Inglourious Basterds). Four years after his last film, The Hateful Eight, Tarantino returns with 1960s period piece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Reuniting the director with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood follows fading TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) as they look to revitalize their careers in a changing industry. With two of the most prominent A-listers headlining a star-studded ensemble (that also includes Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, and others) and Sony slating it in a prime summer release window, it seemed like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was poised to have a successful commercial run. As it turns out, it could be a new all-time high for Tarantino.
According to Box Office Pro, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is projected to earn approximately $40 million domestically during its first three days. That would be slightly higher than 2009’s Inglourious Basterds ($38 million), making this Tarantino’s best opening weekend in his storied career.
Like all of Tarantino’s previous films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is well-received critically and is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Following its premiere at Cannes back in May, reviews were quick to praise it, citing the performances, filmmaking prowess, and (surprisingly) heartfelt emotion as its strongest merits. Tarantino has a passionate following and DiCaprio is a box office draw regardless of subject matter (The Revenant made $533 million worldwide the same winter The Force Awakens came out), but that word-of-mouth is only going to help Hollywood’s commercial prospects. Summer competition isn’t any joke, and The Lion King is coming off a record-setting weekend of its own. In fact, Disney’s latest remake is expected to repeat as weekend champion with $90 million.
Even though it probably isn’t going to finish in first place, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be in fine shape financially. It goes without saying it’s targeting a different demographic than the typical summer fare, making it ideal counter-programming to the current crop of studio blockbusters. This time of year, there aren’t many adult-orientated R-rated films playing, so older moviegoers may appreciate having a new Tarantino flick to check out this weekend. Plus, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is shaping up to be one of the year’s top Oscar contenders, so cinephiles have plenty of reasons to see this one on the big screen.