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Box office predictions: Finding Dory to beat Legend of Tarzan, The BFG

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Three new wide releases are wiggling their way into an already-crowded market, each gunning for big business across the traditionally lucrative Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Finding Dory, however, is setting its sights on a third straight No. 1 finish, likely edging out stiff competition from The Purge: Election Year, the latest entry in Universal’s wildly popular genre series. Warner Bros. is opening its expensive Legend of Tarzan in wide release, while Disney sets The BFG loose after a well received Cannes debut in May. 

Can the week’s new releases finally dethrone Dory? Here’s how the July 1–4 holiday weekend box office battle could play out:

1. Finding Dory – $48 million 

In its first two weeks of release, Finding Dory not only set a record with the highest opening weekend for an animated film in history, but it also crossed the $300 million mark in just 12 days — faster than any other animated feature. With $423.1 million worldwide and counting, the Finding Nemo sequel is already on track to become 2016’s top earner by the end of July — an effort likely to be bolstered by a strong showing over the July 4 holiday weekend thanks to strong word of mouth and cross-demographic appeal.

Dory’s success speaks to the overwhelming popularity and bankable force of the 13-year old Finding Nemo franchise; the film broke the string of high-profile 2016 sequels that failed to catch on with mainstream audiences. 

Third weekend drops are traditionally slight for Disney’s animated features; most recently, The Good Dinosaur dipped 32 percent from week 2 to week 3, last summer’s Pixar smash Inside Out dropped 43 percent, and 2012’s Brave fell 42 percent during the same weekend in July 2012. With the added bonus of its third go-round at the weekend box office falling on a holiday, Finding Dory‘s four-day gross will approach the $50 million mark. 

2. The Purge: Election Year – $30 million

The third film in Universal and Blumhouse’s increasingly popular series, The Purge: Election Year looks to continue the upward trend of inexpensive, R-rated horror films making a killing at the domestic box office, following The Conjuring 2‘s impressive $40.4 million start earlier in June.

With a small budget ($10 million) and a compelling premise (to reduce annual crime rates, the government makes all crime legal for one day, allowing citizens to “purge” their frustrations), The Purge: Election Year is primed to match the profitable success of its predecessors as it opens on 2,787 theaters this weekend. Defying expectations, The Purge: Election Year also managed to impress critics, a rare feat for a horror film sequel, as it currently stands at 61 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. 

The film’s large, built-in fanbase (the previous Purge titles grossed $64.5 million and $72 million in 2013 and 2014, respectively) waited two years for the third film to arrive, and their anticipation is manifesting itself in strong social media activity for Election Year, with Box Office Pro reporting that nearly 10,000 tweets about the film were posted over the last three days. Election Year is also a timely entry as it hits theaters at a moment when the U.S. presidential election is kicking into high gear.

Tracking around 15 percent higher than the second Purge film in terms of online activity, The Purge: Election Year should wind up with around $27 million to $32 million for the 4-day weekend. 

3. The BFG – $25 million 

Based on the 1982 novel by Roald Dahl and directed by internationally renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Disney’s The BFG stomps onto 3,357 North American screens with an established fanbase from both the literary and cinematic worlds. 

Disney, however, risks running itself off the road, as Finding Dory continues to dominate the domestic box office as the must-see family-friendly film of the season, leaving little room for The BFG to make a name for itself in a crowded market. Still, critical reviews have been favorable (73 percent as of Thursday), which can’t hurt, and Spielberg has a golden track record, as his lowest-grossing film of the last decade, last year’s Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, still managed to earn $72.3 million.

Look for The BFG to gross anywhere between $20 and $30 million over the holiday weekend. 

4. Independence Day: Resurgence – $22 million

After underperforming with audiences and critics over its first weekend in wide release, Independence Day: Resurgence is poised for a major drop from its disappointing $41 million debut. The critically panned sequel to director Roland Emmerich’s 1996 alien invasion flick received a lackluster B grade on CinemaScore, which doesn’t bode well for sustained interest stretching into its second weekend, though the film has grossed a solid $115 million from foreign territories thus far. 

With The Purge: Anarchy and The Legend of Tarzan picking away at its demographic, Independence Day: Resurgence might end up with a four-day total of around $19 million to $23 million.

5. The Legend of Tarzan – $21.5 million 

Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan marks yet another big-budget studio production looking to major foreign markets for the bulk of its worldwide gross. Critical reception for the David Yates blockbuster has thus far been polarized; it currently stands at 45 percent on Metacritic and 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, though Manhola Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a glowing review.

Gauging audience reaction for a film based on a beloved, time-tested character like Tarzan, however, is difficult, as rival studios have found success with tentpoles built on the appeal of singular, iconic characters like Maleficent, King Kong, and Sherlock Holmes

On 3,561 screens, The Legend of Tarzan is the week’s widest new release, and its marketing featured images of star Alexander Skarsgård’s buff, shirtless body. But the True Blood actor is hardly a box-office draw, and neither is co-lead Margot Robbie. Seemingly relying on nostalgic appeal to sell the film, Warner Bros. faces an uphill battle as Tarzan lands a little over two months after the premiere of Disney’s The Jungle Book, which, for the casual moviegoer, could be too soon to justify another trip to the theater for a jungle-themed picture.

Early tracking suggests a low per-location average for the $180 million production, which also opens in 19 international territories this weekend before debuting in China on July 19. Films like Warcraft and Terminator: Genisys, which failed to bring in big hauls in the U.S., grossed a substantial majority of their worldwide hauls in China, so there’s hope for Tarzan beyond its domestic box office performance. 


Outside the top five, A24’s Swiss Army Man should do healthy business as it expands to 628 screens following a dazzling $105,453 gross from three theaters last week, while Roadside Attractions’ Our Kind of Traitor could make a tiny splash as it opens at 373 locations. 

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