Writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s latest violence-infused epic “Inglourious Basterds” opened to jam-packed theatres and an estimated $37.6 million in gross receipts this weekend, surging it to first place among the nation’s box offices, according to studio estimates.

The highly-anticipated film stars Brad Pitt as the nice-guy leader of a group of soldiers in Nazi-occupied France that pledges to take swift revenge on any German officer they can find. Critics are praising the work of Austrian actor Christoph Waltz for his portrayal of the brutally charming head German, and Oscar short lists are being mentioned.

The film opened to some 4,400 screens at 3,165 sites, and its score ranked as the highest grossing opening for an end of August release. “Inglourious Basterds” also set a new high for Tarantino pictures.

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The also-praised science fiction film “District 9” slid from last week’s first place to second with an estimated $18.9 million, making its total $73.5 million in ten days. The action adventure “GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” held onto third place with $12.5 million, while “The Time Traveler’s Wife” took in about $10 million. “Julie & Julia” starring Meryl Streep as Julie Childe, scored some $9 million for a $59.3 million total in 17 days.

Final figures are due Monday.

Box Office Grosses
Week Ending August 23, 2009

Rank Title Weekend Total Gross
1 Inglourious Basterds (2009) $37.6M $37.6M
2 District 9 (2009) $18.9M $73.5M
3 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) $12.5M $121M
4 The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) $10M $37.4M
5 Julie & Julia (2009) $9M $59.3M
6 Shorts (2009) $6.6M $6.6M
7 G-Force (2009) $4.21M $107M
8 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) $3.52M $290M
9 The Ugly Truth (2009) $2.85M $82.9M
10 Post Grad (2009) $2.8M $2.8M