Here is proof yet again that adults can sometimes drive the summertime box-office, too. In between the cartoon retreads and same old superhero derring-do arrives “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” At age 56, he is no longer a wunderkind. But Quentin Tarantino‘s nearly three-hour exercise in retro-active what-if-ing that revels in totems from Tinseltown’s past circa 1969 is proving to be a siren call to the mature moviegoer. It helps that it stars such marquee names as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, together on screen for the first time as an aging TV cowboy star and his loyal stunt double and sidekick.
The cherry on the top is Margot Robbie as starlet Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, whose bright career was tragically cut short by the murderous Manson family. The secret sauce arrives in the form of Al Pacino as an old-school agent while Bruce Dern flashes by in a key role as well. But the Tarantino brand just might be the biggest draw, especially for older males, the demo that most reveres this video clerk turned maverick auteur.
Right now, it is estimated that the weekend box office for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” will be around $40 million — although Sony is low-balling a bit with predicting a $30 million opening. Friday’s gross in the $15 million includes a healthy $5.8 million from Thursday’s early showings.
“Hollywood,” whose price tag is around the $90 million range, is likely the filmmaker’s most expensive movie while getting his widest release ever, with 3,500-plus theaters. It may set a new high for Tarantino openings, beating 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which took in $38 million its first weekend. Critics also applauded Tarantino’s 10th movie and first effort in four years after 2015’s “The Hateful Eight,” leading to a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%.