Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight slowly expanded into wide release over the holiday break and this was its first true wide release weekend. The (slightly shorter) DLP version of the violent mystery/comedy/etc. played in 2,474 theaters this weekend and earned a solid $16.24 million weekend. For film nerds who have already overdosed on The Force Awakens and don’t live near The Revenant, it was clearly the drug of choice this weekend. Said weekend total puts the ten-day cume for the film at $29.58m, which is about 75% of its $44m production budget.
That’s not a blockbuster figure, but this was always going to play smaller than Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. The Weinstein Company hopes that the Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Friends thriller will be something of a slow earner, with potential Oscar glory in the cards as well. While well-reviewed (more or less), the Tarantino western lacks the zeitgeist y and media-friendly revenge narratives, as well as the top-lining mega movie stars that helped make his last two films into outright smash hits.
Inglorious Basterds (US soldiers go on a Nazi killing spree) had Brad Pitt while Django Unchained (freed slave slaughters slave owners to rescue his wife) had Leonardo DiCaprio as the heavy. Tarantino is absolutely a marquee name, but this time it was all up to him to sell the picture. Sam Jackson and Kurt Russell are media-friendly movie stars, but they aren’t openers (or haven’t been in a while). So the fact that this one is doing as well as it’s doing is a credit to Mr. Tarantino (as well as the various police unions that turned the film’s release into a national news story).
The closest comparison to this release is actually the 2011 IMAX-first debut of Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. It’s not an exact match, since the Tom Cruise action-er went wide on Christmas as opposed to New Year’s, but it’s close enough. That film opened with $13 million on 425 IMAX screens and then went wide that following Wednesday, where it earned $29m over Christmas weekend and brought its 11 day cume (Christmas was a Sunday) to $76m. If The Hateful Eight plays anywhere near as leggy as that Brad Bird masterpiece, it gets to $82m domestic which would be a huge win for the picture.
Now to be fair, that film had astounding legs, was more of a populist crowd-pleaser, faced a less crowded January, didn’t have to deal with Star Wars, and had an extra week of holiday play. Ditto a comparison with True Grit, which opened with $36m over Christmas 2010 and ended up with $171m, a 4.76x multiplier that would again get The Hateful Eight to $79m. Oh, and a Jackie Brown multiplier ($9.2m opening/$39m total) gets The Hateful Eight to $72m domestic. So yeah, if it has short legs it gets to $60m, but if it trots a bit then it has a shot at $80m+. Best case scenario is that it ends up as leggy as Django Unchained ($30m/$162m) and ends up with $91m domestic.