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Slick ‘Basterds’ Storm the Box Office

Quentin Tarantino has never been known as much of a ladies' man at the box office, so it doesn't hurt when your wingman is Brad Pitt.

That tandem was all it took to lure female moviegoers to Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, which claimed an easy win at theaters this weekend with an estimated $37.6 million, according to Nielsen EDI.

Riding stellar reviews, Basterds eclipsed most box-office projections by $10 million and gave Tarantino a career-best debut. It bested Kill Bill Vol. 2, which opened to $25.1 million in 2004.

Director Tarantino and star Pitt hustled to promote the film and reach beyond the director's fan base, namely to women. The two cropped up on the covers of women's magazines and Sunday newspaper inserts. Television ads focused more on Pitt's mug and Southern drawl than on the bloodshed that marks all of Tarantino's films.

"A lot of naysayers said we wouldn't get a female audience," says Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Co., which released Basterds. "We knew they loved it when they saw it. We just needed to entice them."

The strategy paid off as Basterds drew an audience that was 42% female - high for a Tarantino movie. Critical raves helped cement older audiences: 86% of critics recommended the film, according to RottenTomatoes.com.

The film gave a much-needed lift to the Weinstein Co., which had released a string of box-office disappointments until now, and gave a boost to ticket sales during the August doldrums.

"The results speak volumes about the opportunity that late August provides for unusual films like Basterds," says Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com

The opening knocked the sci-fi thriller District 9 from the top spot, though the film held well with $18.9 million. The $30 million picture has earned $73.5 million.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was third with $12.5 million, which lifted its three-week total to $120.5 million.

The Time Traveler's Wife was fourth with $10 million, followed by the comedy Julie&Julia with $9 million.

The news this weekend wasn't so good for Tarantino's friend and collaborator Robert Rodriguez, whose family comedy Shorts flopped at $6.6 million. Most analysts expected it to open to at least $10 million.

The only other major newcomer, the college comedy Post Grad, met its modest expectations with $2.8 million.

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