Box Office: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starts strong with US$40 Million, Lion King remains victorious

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has the benefit of positive reviews and the rare chance to see Leonardo DiCaprio (right) and Brad Pitt share the big screen. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

LOS ANGELES (VARIETY.COM/REUTERS) - Disney's The Lion King might still rule everything the light touches, but Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood certainly held its own this weekend at the domestic box office.

In a win for original content, Tarantino's R-rated ode to Hollywood's golden age opened with US$40 million (S$54.78 million) from 3,659 North American theatres, a career best for the filmmaker. The movie also scored an opening day record for Tarantino, amassing US$16.8 million on Friday.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came in second place behindThe Lion King, which collected another US$75.5 million, down roughly 60 per cent from its inaugural outing. Jon Favreau's remake of the animated classic has generated US$350 million at the domestic box office, making it the fourth-biggest release of the year after 10 days in theaters. Overseas, The Lion King has earned US$612 million for a worldwide bounty of US$963 million.

The Lion King continues to strengthen Disney's reign over the domestic box office. The studio now owns the five-highest grossing movies of the year with Avengers: Endgame (US$856 million), Captain Marvel (US$426 million), Toy Story 4 (US$395 million), The Lion King (US$350 million) and Aladdin (US$345 million).

Heading into the weekend, Sony tempered expectations for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, estimating a US$30 million start given the mid-summer debut for a film that isn't based on existing IP or part of a franchise. The movie has the benefit of positive reviews - and the rare chance to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt share the big screen - but it will need to rely on word of mouth to continue drawing crowds throughout popcorn season. It received a B CinemaScore from audiences, compared to the A- score for his most recent hits, 2009's Inglourious Basterds and 2012's Django Unchained. Inglorious Basterds, which also starred Pitt and debuted during summer, launched with US$38 million and ended its box office run with US$120 million in North America and US$321 million worldwide. Django Unchained, Tarantino's biggest box office success to date, bowed with US$30 million over the holidays, and went on to earn US$425 million globally.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Tarantino's ninth feature and the first made without the help of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein - cost US$90 million to produce, making it one of his most expensive films. The movie follows DiCaprio and Pitt as an aging actor and his longtime stunt double who are struggling to find their place in show biz. At the same time, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), the up-and-coming actress married to director Roman Polanski, moves next door. The drama, which pays tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, is set in the late 1960s against the backdrop of the Manson family murders.

Since Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was the only newcomer to movie theater marquees, holdovers rounded out box office charts. Sony's Spider-Man: Far From Home landed at No. 3, adding US$12.2 million. After four weeks in theaters, the superhero adventure has made a mighty US$344 million. It has now passed the domestic totals of 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming(US$334 million) and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 (US$336 million).

In fourth place, Disney's Toy Story 4 generated US$10 million in its sixth outing, boosting North American revenues to US$395 million. The animated family film brought in US$19 million this weekend at the international box office, taking ticket sales to US$522 million overseas and US$918 million worldwide.

Paramount's gator thriller Crawl placed fifth with US$4 million for a domestic tally of US$31 million.

Prior to this weekend, the domestic box office was down over 7 per cent from last year. Now, ticket sales are behind 6.5 per cent, according to ComScore. That figure could continue to shrink when "Fast & Furious" spinoff "Hobbs & Shaw" hits theatres next weekend.

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