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Weekend box office: Legend of Tarzan, Purge: Election Year soar

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Though Finding Dory was expected to (and did) handily topple each of the week’s three new wide releases, Disney’s The BFG, Universal’s The Purge: Election Year, and especially Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan put up a respectable fight to the finish, pulling in between nearly $20 and $38 million each as the Pixar sequel ultimately took the No. 1 spot for its third straight weekend. 

Continuing its ascent toward overtaking Captain America: Civil War ($405.4 million) as the year’s highest-grossing film so far, Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory swims to the top of the North American box office for its third consecutive three-day window, adding an estimated $41.4 million to its $372 million haul after just 17 days in release. Its third weekend number will climb even higher once Fourth of July totals are announced Monday. If three-day estimates hold up, the July 1-3 weekend could be the fourth highest-grossing holiday frame in history, with totals approaching $190 million.

With a steady $166 million coming from foreign territories thus far, Dory now stands at $538 million globally, bringing the Ellen DeGeneres-starring animated film one step closer to becoming Disney’s fourth 2016 picture to cross the $900 million mark worldwide. 

Defying expectations by a mile at No. 2, The Legend of Tarzan pulled in a solid estimated $38.5 million ($10,813 per-location average) over its first three days, a total that will push closer to $50 million at the close of the four-day frame. Tarzan pulled in $5.9 million from 454 IMAX screens, making the $180 million tentpole a surprise overperformer as audiences stuck it to critics who slapped the film with negative reviews on Friday, ultimately awarding a decent A- grade on CinemaScore to director David Yates’ first non-Harry Potter feature since 2011. 

Studio tentpoles, especially sequels, have had issues generating much traction with domestic audiences this year. High-profile, mega-budgeted 2016 underperformers thus far include Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass ($75.7 million), Universal’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War ($48 million), and two Lionsgate/Summit pictures: Gods of Egypt ($31.1 million) and The Divergent Series: Allegiant ($66.2 million). 

Prognosticators pegged Tarzan for a low-to-mid $20 million opening, though the picture will gross more than double that amount through the final run of its opening holiday stretch, while foreign grosses (especially from China, a market which has kept North American flops like Warcraft and Terminator: Genisys afloat with exceptional $100 million-plus grosses) should further elevate the film closer to recouping its sky-high budget in the weeks to come. 

Rounding out the top three, The Purge: Election Year becomes the horror series’ second biggest opener yet, with $31.4 million across its first three days for a per-screen average of $11,230. The previous film in the franchise, The Purge: Anarchy, started with $29.8 million during summer 2014, which, adjusted for inflation, roughly matches the total Election Year pulled in this weekend. That number will balloon to around $35 million for the four-day period. 

Carrying on Universal’s recent tradition of building an audience for a series, then consistently connecting with it on subsequent releases, The Purge joins the studio’s Fast and the Furious collection as a time-tested franchise continuing to produce successful sequels that match (or outpace) their forerunners. Election Year, yet another inexpensive horror title produced in collaboration with Blumhouse Productions and Platinum Dunes, also sees the highest CinemaScore rating yet for a Purge entry, with its B+ topping the C and B grades audiences gave the first and second films, respectively. With increasing audience affection and ongoing financial success (each of the Purge films have cost $10 million or under to produce), expect the series to go on for what is undoubtedly many sequels to come. 

Coming in at No. 4 is Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, eating up $18.6 million over its first three days of wide release. The $140 million film, based on Roald Dahl’s beloved novel of the same name, is the weekend’s best-reviewed new title (A- grade on CinemaScore, 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), though its three-day receipts total well under what a film of its budget should be pulling in. In releasing the film while Finding Dory is still in its empirical phase, Disney likely cannibalized itself as The BFG faced stiff competition, making it difficult to carve out an identity for itself amid an already-crowded market. Its four-day gross should wind up around $25 million. 

Outside the top 10, A24’s Swiss Army Man grossed a solid estimated $1.4 million ($1.7 million four-day) as it expanded to 628 theaters this weekend, marking another specialty hit for the indie distributor after strong showings of their The Lobster ($7.6 million and counting) and The Witch ($25.1 million) in wide release earlier this year. 

Check out the three-day box office estimates for the July 1-3 weekend below.

1. Finding Dory – $41.4 million

2. The Legend of Tarzan – $38.5 million 

3. The Purge: Election Year – $31.4 million 

4. The BFG – $18.6 million

5. Independence Day: Resurgence – $16.6 million

6. Central Intelligence – $12.5 million 

7. The Shallows – $8.8 million 

8. Free State of Jones – $4.1 million 

9. The Conjuring 2 – $3.8 million 

10. Now You See Me 2 – $3 million

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