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Tarantino's Nazi movie slays at box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nazis and Quentin Tarantino proved a lethal combination at the worldwide box office as the bad-boy director topped the weekend charts with his violent World War Two movie "Inglourious Basterds."

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the film sold a total of $65.1 million worth of tickets in North America and 22 foreign territories, a promising start after the disappointment of Tarantino's previous effort, "Death Proof," two years ago.

In the United States and Canada, the $37.6 million tally surpassed his previous best opening of $25.1 million for "Kill Bill Vol. 2" in 2004.

The foreign contribution of $27.5 million was led by No. 1 openings in such countries as France ($6.1 million), Britain ($5.8 million), Germany ($4.3 million) and Australia ($2.7 million). It will roll out across the rest of the world over the next three months,

Brad Pitt stars as the leader of a group of Jewish-Americans who carry out violent wartime acts of retribution across Europe. Pundits had forecast a North American opening in the $25 million range.

The film, which reportedly cost $70 million to make, also provides a much-needed boost for the struggling independent studio Weinstein Co., which co-financed it with international distributor Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co.

WOMEN TARGETED

Company principals Bob and Harvey Weinstein have released all of Tarantino's films, beginning in 1992 with "Reservoir Dogs" when they ran Miramax Films. But since launching their new firm in 2005, the Weinsteins have failed to make much of an impact either at the box office or the Academy Awards.

Harvey Weinstein told Reuters that the early strength of "Inglourious Basterds" was due in part to a last-minute marketing blitz aimed at women and urban audiences.

Female-skewing promos downplayed the violence and highlighted the key roles played by actresses Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent. The strategy, which he said cost over $5 million, seemed to work. Exit surveys showed women accounted for 42 percent of the audience, a high proportion for a film with a high body count.

Additionally Samuel L. Jackson, one of the stars of Tarantino's 1994 smash "Pulp Fiction," cut a spot aimed at black moviegoers. "Pulp Fiction" remains Tarantino's biggest film overall with a domestic haul of $107 million.

Last weekend's top film in North America, TriStar Pictures sci-fi thriller "District 9," slipped to No. 2 with $18.9 million. After 10 days, the Peter Jackson-produced film has earned $73.5 million. TriStar is a unit of Sony Corp.

Paramount Pictures' "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," was also down one to No. 3, with $12.5 million. The three-week haul for the action movie stands at $120.5 million. Paramount is a unit of Viacom Inc.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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