‘Basterds’ box office owed to Pitt?

Posted by · 3:42 pm · August 23rd, 2009

(from left0 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Los Angeles premiere of Inglourious basterdsBuried at the bottom of this Independent study of the diminishing star factor in Hollywood was a nugget about Weinstein Company honcho Harvey Weinstein’s marketing strategy for “Inglourious Basterds,” which had Brad Pitt front and center (and, in a way, made the actor appear to be a bigger element of the film than he in fact was).

Defending the star mold to an extent, Weinstein is quoted as saying “Pitt is a super-superstar at the apex of his popularity and he is a large part of why people want to see this movie.”

So I’ll put it out to the readership.  With films like “Land of the Lost,” “Duplicity,” “Funny People” and “Public Enemies” coming up short at the box office despite starring popular actors and actresses, is it fair to chalk the “Inglourious” take up to star appeal?  Is it a Tarantino attraction?  Is it the subject matter of the film?  Is it a combination of all?  Probably the latter, though I think the perfect storm of Pitt and Tarantino made more than a few people curious.  It’s a powerful pairing after all.

Your thoughts?

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31 responses so far

  • 1 8-23-2009 at 3:50 pm

    James D. said...

    Some of it was Pitt, sure, but if we want to talk about misleading marketing, it was the trailer full of action and violence that led to the higher numbers as well. That, and the high number of Tarantino devotees.

    Pitt certainly didn’t do it alone. Benjamin Button underperformed, and Jesse James barely made it on the radar.

  • 2 8-23-2009 at 4:17 pm

    Georgie said...

    I’m fine with the fact that they made the movie look like a Tarantino action fest with Brad Pitt killing Nazis because it got audiences in the theaters. As misleading as it was.

    As sad as it is, the best attributes of the film (Landa/Shosanna subplot) would not have sold it to the mainstream audience at all. The theater I was in seemed to love it though.

  • 3 8-23-2009 at 4:33 pm

    Bill M. said...

    I list my reasons for seeing the film in order:

    1) Tarantino – Even after Death Proof his movies are a must see, opening day must see’s. Just like Marty & Almodovar (a personal fave).

    2) Pitt – Brad Pitt has grown on me as of late. The Pitt + Tarantino combo intrigued me very much.

    3) A hyper stylized fantasy take on the WW2 genre mixed with Tarantino’s revenge plot caught me right away.

    BTW 9/10. Christoph Waltz for the Oscar.

  • 4 8-23-2009 at 4:52 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    Nazis sell. Simple.

    Plus it is being advertised as an actioner — that sell, too.

  • 5 8-23-2009 at 4:53 pm

    Ben said...

    42% of IB’s audience this weekend was female. I have to think Pitt played a part in that.

  • 6 8-23-2009 at 5:00 pm

    Lola Falana said...

    I’m a member of quite a few Brad Pitt fan boards and forums and believe me when I tell you his fans, a very international group I will say, made a group decision to see show up this weekend. Most of us would have stayed home if it wasn’t for him. By the way I loved the movie.

  • 7 8-23-2009 at 5:14 pm

    corey said...

    I’m a film enthusaist myself, and the biggest reason that I went to see it, and alot of the people that I know, was simply to see what crazy bat-shit way could Tarantino make a nazi-WW2 film unconventional. And he suceeded in my opinion

  • 8 8-23-2009 at 5:23 pm

    André said...

    LAND of the lost, Kris!

    how often do I get to correct you? =P

  • 9 8-23-2009 at 5:25 pm

    André said...

    and, not to stay off topic, I was curious until the 1st trailer hit… prolly gonna watch this at home (it doesn’t open here in Rio for a while).

  • 10 8-23-2009 at 5:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Lazy typo. Thanks Andre.

  • 11 8-23-2009 at 5:36 pm

    Guy said...

    It’s a combo of Pitt and Tarantino and their individual star power. Throw in what people imagine they will be like working together and you have a powerful box office draw.

    That said it was Christoph Waltz as Lt. Handa that stole the show.

  • 12 8-23-2009 at 6:29 pm

    BobMcBob said...

    People fail to realize how many films, especially adult dramas, without stars fail at the box office. Additionally, although films with stars may not do well initially at the box office, most legitimate stars, like “Brad Pitt” more than earn their paychecks through the revenue their names add in DVD sales and rentals and TV licensing.

  • 13 8-23-2009 at 6:51 pm

    Half & Half said...

    I think Pitt was a large part of the draw, but I also think Tarantino has a core audience that will go see just about any movie he makes. Plus, the subject matter of this movie, the basic premise and the fact that Tarantino is known for his outlandishness increased the appeal for the movie. No offense to Depp, but with the exception of the children’s films Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which, ironically, was produced by Brad Pitt – frankly Depp has never been able to open anything but the Pirates movies. Or am I really the only one who’s noticed that? Even if Pitt’s TCCOBB did cost $150MIL and did “underperform” by some analysts standards, it still made $332MIL worldwide – nearly twice was much as Public Enemies has currently banked. Therefore, Pitt’s presence in a Tarantino film was obviously part of what drew movie-goers. Whether or not they were disappointed by the fact that Pitt’s only in 1/3 of the movie is another story. I knew what to expect going into the movie, but then again, I like Tarantino’s work, so I didn’t feel cheated by Pitt’s supporting role in the film.

  • 14 8-23-2009 at 8:48 pm

    Daniel Crooke said...

    I’m not sure about that, completely. While Pitt surely was part of the box office draw…Public Enemies had Johnny Depp, and one could argue that Depp is just as appealing as Pitt.

  • 15 8-23-2009 at 9:03 pm

    Daniel Crooke said...

    I kindly withdraw my comment.

  • 16 8-23-2009 at 9:32 pm

    ic said...

    I adore Brad Pitt and that is the only thing that would make me see this type of movie. I like it but it was Brad and Brad alone that made me and several of my friends give this movie a chance.

  • 17 8-23-2009 at 11:11 pm

    D said...

    Kris– Ive been analyzing your ten best picture nominees and I hope you dont mind me sharing a few thoughts. Bright Star, Invictus, An Education, and Amelia, I feel are you weakest nominees. Though I love LOVE the trailer for Amelia… I feel it and Invictus are going to hurt because of Million Dollar Baby being fairly fresh in voters mind. Personally, I hated the film… aside from Morgan Freeman and in some regards Hilary Swank… I felt it was just a horrible choice. Finding Neverland, Passion of the Christ, The Aviator, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hotel Rowanda, The Incredibles, Sideways, and HELL… even Shrek 2, in my opinion are better films, both in entertainment value and artistic merit. And I have to say pop culture as well as the Academy will more than likely agree with me that this particular choice was just plain wrong. That is why I feel these particular films are the weakest. Amelia would have probably have benefited if Annette Benning would be playing the lead. The fact that Hilary Swank beat her twice is just sick… and not in a good way!

  • 18 8-23-2009 at 11:26 pm

    tony rock said...

    Pitt is a draw. Benjamin Button didnt underperform. Despite its budget being so high, I dont think anyone really expected a movie like that to gross anymore than it did. Jesse James only failed because there was no marketing, zilch. As far as the diminishing star factor, I believe stars still play some role in box office, just not as much as before. Stars alone do not guarantee money, there has to be an attractive premise and/or character to go with it.

  • 19 8-23-2009 at 11:56 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Those are out of date a mere couple of weeks after I posted them, D. Things have definitely changed. Latest update on 8/31.

  • 20 8-24-2009 at 12:24 am

    Gar said...

    I think Tarantino played a sizable role in the opening weekend gross. He’s one of the very few directors that can [still] pull in a large audience based on his name alone. If memory serves me correctly, both volumes of “Kill Bill” performed well their respective opening weekends. Much as Uma Thurman deserves to be a huge star, she isn’t, which leaves the films’ marketing and QT.

  • 21 8-24-2009 at 12:51 am

    Rob said...

    Has a Cinemascore rating been released for IB yet? I’m particularly wondering how it will do in its second weekend…

  • 22 8-24-2009 at 5:29 am

    RichardA said...

    How about the gore/thrill part?
    Entertainment Weekly had an article on how certain segment of the audience just loves that kinda stuff. It’s not “Halloween” but the way QT serves it, it’s a good substitute.
    It’s weak but i’m just throwing it out there.

  • 23 8-24-2009 at 5:29 am

    RichardA said...

    How about the gore/thrill part?
    Entertainment Weekly had an article on how certain segment of the audience just loves that kinda stuff. It’s not “Halloween” but the way QT serves it, it’s a good substitute.
    It’s weak but i’m just throwing it out there.

  • 24 8-24-2009 at 5:54 am

    red_wine said...

    I think the star here was not Pitt, but Tarantino. Tarantino is a HUGE star. Every untalented aspiring film-maker anywhere in the world worships Tarantino. I couldn’t care less if Pitt was in it or not, he barely interests me.

    Stateside, probably Pitt did play a part though the kick-ass trailers might certainly have helped. And in Europe, well they ‘respect directors over there’ and there are many European stars in the film.

  • 25 8-24-2009 at 5:56 am

    Milan said...

    ‘With films like “Land of the Lost,” “Duplicity,” “Funny People” and “Public Enemies” coming up short at the box office…’

    Is it just me or are they all Universal properties?

  • 26 8-24-2009 at 6:15 am

    Mike_M said...

    It was the combination of QT and Pitt, plus being a “war” movie… it was a great film though, and glad it did well.

  • 27 8-24-2009 at 9:32 am

    Craig Kennedy said...

    Rob, this article in the LA Times gives the cinemascore as A-.


    It also talks about the number of females showing up to see it being a big part of the film’s success.
    It al

  • 28 8-24-2009 at 12:22 pm

    Faye said...

    Eh. If the cirumstances were reversed and Pitt starred in the underperforming Public Enemies and Depp starred in IB, I seriously doubt this question would even be asked. Like Half & Half said no one questions whether or not Depp is a box office draw even though except for the Pirate movies, he’s not. How about Leo? When was the last time he put butts in seats when he was the only headliner? And don’t even let me get started on George Clooney. My point is I find it biased that this question is often asked of Pitt and not the others. Brad Pitt was THE reason I paid $14.50 (F-U Archlight!) on Friday night.

  • 29 8-24-2009 at 1:45 pm

    BerkeleyGirl said...

    I agree that Pitt wasn’t the main draw but do give him credit for savvy choices. Believe me, I’m no Pitt Daddy acolyte but he is making savvy choices – mixing up genres but always working with A-list directors (i.e., Benjamin Button and Burn After Reading). Di Caprio’s sticking to serious stuff, which may be affecting his draw. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen him as loose as in Catch Me If You Can. I don’t question his chops – just wish he’d lighten up for a moment. (Same goes for Christian Bale…)

    Depp is the savviest of all. The man is arguably the greatest American film actor of his generation. When I watched “Public Enemies,” he reminded me of the great silent movie stars. The man is a remarkable physical actor with one of the most eloquent faces in modern film. Depp truly gets that less is most definitely more. At the same time, while possessing great personal charisma, he’s remarkably free of vanity.

  • 30 8-24-2009 at 2:20 pm

    jess said...

    Burn after reading also relied on Pitt for publicity, despite him having a supp part in it, and it was a hit according to Cohen Bros standard.

  • 31 8-24-2009 at 9:18 pm

    katie said...

    @Chase Kahn – I agree with
    Chase Kahn’s comment; “Nazis sell” –

    Because come to think of it, there has been a lot of “Nazi” talk in the media lately, not even related to this film, but in regards to politics. Fox news have had their hosts comparing President Obama to a Nazi. That made the rounds. Then there was that lady accusing Barney Frank with similar remarks at a Townhall meeting, and Barney Frank lovingly disagreeing with her. That also made the rounds.

    @BerkeleyGirl: I would LOVE to see Christian Bale in a comedy. Perhaps a dark comedy, but something fun and sexy! If only.

    Personally, Pitt’s role in the film and role in the marketing has actually been a detractor. Mainly due to the negative reviews of his performance. That accent and exaggerated facial expression is annoying as hell in the trailer, this was backed up by the bad reviews, so I was not looking forward to putting up with it during the film, even with his limited time on the screen.

    But like it’s been noted, I think that overall it was the perfect storm of:

    -A big big international star
    -A snazzy action packed trailer with an intriguing and original story.
    -Virtually NO competition

    Plus, although Tapley didn’t love it, overall reviews have been very positive. I think it is in the high 80’s on rotten tomatoes. That probably helped a lot as well. All those factors contributed to the big weekend.