Box Office: ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Riding Toward $40M Opening; ‘Lion King’ Stays No. 1

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Box Office: ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Riding Toward $40M Opening; ‘Lion King’ Stays No. 1

Sony’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is riding toward a $40 million opening at the domestic box office, according to early Friday returns. The numbers, of course, could shift as the weekend unfolds.

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film — and the first made without the aid of Harvey Weinstein — is being billed as the only original tentpole of the summer for adults, which is otherwise dominated by franchise installments and other branded IP.

Expectations are high that the star-studded Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will score a career-best start for Tarantino, 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. So far, it is skewing heavily male.

Friday gross of $15 million to $16 million will include an impressive $5.8 million in Thursday previews.

Whatever the outcome, Tarantino’s R-rated movie is destined to come in No. 2 behind Disney family powerhouse The Lion King, which could easily gross north of $80 million in its sophomore outing.

Heading into the weekend, Sony remained conservative in predicting a $30 million opening. 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, set in the summer of 1969, is a twinned tale of a changing Hollywood and the Manson Family. DiCaprio plays a washed-up Western star desperate to keep his career going, while Pitt plays his longtime stuntman. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, the actress and wife of Roman Polanski who was murdered by Manson’s followers. Al Pacino also stars.

Inglourious Basterds, also starring Pitt, bowed to $38 million in late August 2009, not adjusted for inflation. And over Christmas in 2012, Django Unchained, starring DiCaprio, including $30.1 million for the Dec. 28-30 weekend (opening Dec. 25, it took in $63.1 million in its first six days).

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


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