With Dunkirk waging war on the summer box office, can any of this week’s promising newcomers race past Christopher Nolan’s sturdy WWII epic for a surprise debut atop the domestic chart? Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde and the Sony Pictures Animation team’s The Emoji Movie) have the goods to put up a fight, though Nolan’s proven staying power as one of the foremost auteurs working today could mean a minimal sophomore slump for his big-budget period film, which might serve as a substantial roadblock for this week’s newcomers.
So, which film will come out on top? Read on for EW’s July 28-30 weekend box office predictions.
1 – The Emoji Movie – $30 million
Once a surefire way for studios to make buckets of cash, family animated titles have lost their singular sheen in recent years thanks to an oversaturation of underwhelming releases outside the Disney/Universal realm.
Sony Pictures Animation, which last year proved it can make a moderate hit out of an unorthodox digital property by seeing its Angry Birds Movie — based on a video game app — to a decent $107 million haul in North America, returns to the realm of smartphones with The Emoji Movie, hitting around 4,069 theaters Friday.
With a robust voice cast lending their talents to a variety of your favorite cell phone emoticons (T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph, Christina Aguilera, Anna Faris, James Corden, Jennifer Coolidge, Sofia Vergara, and Patrick Stewart voicing, of course, the poop emoji), The Emoji Movie has the star power to command the attention of casual audiences, though critical reviews have yet to land online as of Thursday afternoon — never a good sign.
Still, the film will likely play to families as escapist fare, and its debut grosses could climb as high as $30 million, which should be enough to dethrone Dunkirk.
2 – Dunkirk – $26 million
With a string of ultra successful tentpoles to his credit (five of his last six features have grossed between $188 million and $534 million), Nolan is one of the most bankable filmmakers working today. Last week, as Dunkirk opened to a solid $50 million, Nolan further proved his ability to open a film based on his involvement alone, without bankable stars (the cast, boasting Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, is no less prestigious). In its second week, Dunkirk will ride strong word-of-mouth (A- grade on Cinemascore) en route to a 40-50 percent fall, though healthy midweek numbers (between $6 million and $7 million on Monday and Tuesday) and its status as a buzzy event picture that, perhaps more than any other film released this year, is necessary to view on the big screen suggests an even lesser fall is still on the table for the $150 million production.
3 – Atomic Blonde – $22 million
Charlize Theron has enjoyed one of the most impressive post-Oscar victory careers of any performer working today, having fronted further prestige pictures (2005’s North Country, 2011’s Young Adult) to major action blockbusters (2012’s Prometheus, this year’s Fate of the Furious) and even films that pushed the boundaries of what a contemporary awards player can be, as Mad Max: Fury Road — largely her character’s story — gobbled up 10 Academy Award nods at the 2016 Oscars ceremony, winning six.
While her latest film, Atomic Blonde (3,300 North American screens on Friday) is cut from the same action-oriented cloth, it’s also prime proof that ultra-savvy screenwriting can coexist with spectacular summer style in the same picture. Critics have thus far given the film positive reviews, and its cast’s impressive pedigree (John Goodman and James McAvoy also star) adds to the film’s overall appeal.
With female-fronted movies performing well across all genres (Wonder Woman, Girls Trip, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as of late, audiences are hungry for another ass-kicking woman in the driver’s seat of a quality offering, though Atomic Blonde enters a crowded marketplace, with War for the Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man: Homecoming still gunning for the action-hungry crowd as well.
Still, the film’s modest $30 million budget will be easy to clear in forthcoming weeks, even if the film opens below expectations. Expect Theron and company to sit pretty at No. 3 this weekend with around $20-25 million.
4 – Girls Trip – $20 million
When big-budget studio fare falls, it falls hard. Spider-Man: Homecoming dipped 62 percent from week one to week two, while Transformers: The Last Knight crashed to a similar tune this summer. Comedies typically fare better, even when they open to less-than-stellar numbers (CHIPS fell 48 percent after a lowly $7.8 million debut in March, while last month’s The House shed 45 percent after a critical savaging).
Luckily for Girls Trip, it’s the first bona fide live-action comedy hit of the year, earning $30 million across its first three days last weekend. When comedies go big, they tend to stay big, and Girls Trip is looking at a soft decline in the same vein of 2015 summer genre hit (and seasonal sensation) Trainwreck thanks to strong word-of-mouth from audiences (A+ on Cinemascore) and critics.
Expect Girls Trip to rake in another $17-20 million this weekend.
5 – Spider-Man: Homecoming – $10 million
On his third cinematic reboot of the modern era, Spidey‘s red-hot box office run continues its cool descent as it preps for its fourth weekend in theaters. After falling between 50 and 62 percent in previous weeks, the film should muster enough strength to power into the top five for a final frame, likely bagging an additional $8-10 million in the days ahead.
Outside the top five, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit — which earlier this month moved up one week from its originally planned Aug. 4 bow — is sure to make a substantial splash on the specialty scene when it opens in limited release this weekend.
As most titles in Bigelow’s recent filmography have, the film, which centers on the Algiers Motel incident in addition to events surrounding the 1967 12th Street Riot in the titular city, has thus far received near universal praise from movie critics as it mounts a potential Oscar run for its cast (Jason Mitchell, Will Poulter, John Boyega) and Bigelow’s direction.
With such an early release date, if Detroit wants to sustain its awards prospects through the winter, it will need to post similar numbers to its director’s previous features: 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, which posted an $83,430 per-screen average at five locations, and 2009’s The Hurt Locker, which averaged $36,338 from four sites before winning Best Picture the following year.
Also entering limited release this weekend are A24’s Menashe, about a hasidic Jewish grocery clerk’s attempts to gain custody of his son, IFC’s Marion Cotillard period romance From the Land of the Moon, and Al Gore’s environmental documentary An Inconvenient Sequel, which lands a decade after his An Inconvenient Truth won two Academy Awards back in 2007. Each of these titles should land with the prestige crowd and are sure to average over $10,000 per screen through Sunday.