By Joshua Rich
April 10, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

Here we go, PopWatchers! This week’s box office discussion topic: Grindhouse. The three-hour, R-rated Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez exploitation-flick homage way way way underperformed on its opening weekend, grossing just $11.6 mil. That weekend total was less than half of what most pundits were prognosticating. It was even smaller than the paltry $13.8 mil that that other big buzz ready made cult hit disappointment, Snakes on a Plane, earned in its debut last year, and it is probably the highest-profile flop of the wascally Weinstein brothers’ celebrated career. Boy, as Mercedes McCambridge famously once said, “It burns! It burns!”

What the hell went wrong? Well, the blame game has credited the film’s excessive length in limiting the number of shows per day and deterring some viewers, while some observers have speculated that maybe Easter weekend wasn’t the best time to release an ultraviolent R-rated splatterfest. And Harvey Weinstein has gone on record saying that he regrets not having split up the movie’s two halves into separate releases all along. alumna Justine Elias has suggested that the Grindhouse marketing campaign made a mistake when it created largely male-appeal ads — a major lapse considering the badass heroines played by the likes of Rosario Dawson (pictured) and Rose McGowan that female viewers might have appreciated. And others have looked at the success of 300 and argued that studios certainly may deliberately make movies that are hardly highbrow as long as the films are shiny and cool-looking. Grindhouse, of course, is made in the style of cheap ’70s crapola, and it looks it.

Sure, that’s intentional, but I don’t think the icky feeling now sweeping through the Weinstein Company was. After all, the movie got strong reviewsand all sorts of press going into its premiere. The fledgling companyadmits to having spent upwards of $75 million to produce and market Grindhouse(and, of course, that’s just the expenditures they’re admitting to).But even if the film is split in two and given a special re-release ofsome sort down the line, as Harvey has said he’s considering, it’s gota long road to profitability. Consider: its level of violence means itcan’t be shown on regular TV, its fan base appears to be much morelimited than those of Tarantino’s or Rodriguez’s previous films like Pulp Fiction and Sin City, and the summer movie season (with giant franchise pictures set to dominate every weekend) is almost here. In other words, Grindhouse‘s window of opportunity has all but closed.

Anyway, what’s your take on all this? How could the Weinsteins haveprevented such a debacle? Does this damage the former Miramaxers’ reputation as a pairof execs who have the magic touch when it comes to churning outmoneymakers? Do you think they can still salvage this film and steer itto profitability? Is Grindhouse‘s inevitable eventual status as a cult flick good enough?