There’s a new Christopher Nolan movie on the block, and most of this week’s holdover titles are quivering in their boots as the director’s latest release, Dunkirk, preps for domestic chart domination. With the ensemble comedy Girls Trip and the most expensive French film ever made, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, also gunning for audience dollars, will Dunkirk claim an easy victory over its sturdy foes, or will it face an uphill battle for the top spot?
Check out EW’s July 21-23 weekend box office predictions below.
1 – Dunkirk – $60 million
Once a king of underground cinema thanks to indie favorites Memento and Following, Christopher Nolan has since rebranded himself as one of the of the foremost purveyors of the prestige blockbuster, enlivening big-budget, Oscar-winning studio fare like The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar with his keenly singular style — most often to critical acclaim.
Warner Bros.’ Dunkirk, while marking a thematic shift for the English filmmaker (it ditches the fantastical settings of his previous works in favor of a dramatic recreation of the film’s titular battle, which saw Allied troops miraculously evacuated from the shores of France as German forces closed in), still plays like a heated action epic, and its marketing materials thus far have promised exactly what the film delivers: a taut, rousing recreation of one of the most fascinating war stories of World War II.
Audiences have come to associate Nolan’s name with satisfying big screen fare, and his films are typically event pictures that beg to be seen on the big screen, and with Dunkirk playing in select locations on IMAX 70mm, his latest is no exception. Across the past decade, only three WWII-set films have crossed the $100 million mark: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, the Marvel superhero flick Captain America: The First Avenger, and, most recently, the Angelina Jolie-directed Louis Zamperini biopic Unbroken. Nolan’s attachment and an all-star cast (including Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Mark Rylance) could mean the genre will soon have another massive hit on its hands.
Hype for the film (which opens at around 3,600 locations beginning Friday) intensified earlier this week when the reviews embargo lifted and mainstream critics hailed the picture as one of the best films of the year so far. With Nolan’s trusted directorial hand guiding the way, Dunkirk should be able to muster a winning $50-$60 million over the three-day stretch.
2 – Girls Trip – $28 million
As Girls Trip‘s hilarious trailers have shown, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Hadish are the wonder women here to save mainstream comedy from a disastrous downturn, with no major genre picture (outside animation) having topped the $20 million mark over opening weekend so far this year.
In recent months, audiences have overwhelmingly declared they’re less interested in high comedic concept (Rough Night, Baywatch, The House, and Snatched are just a handful of examples of notable genre underperformers from 2017 alone), and Girls Trip has answered the call by assembling a likable cast for an easy-to-grasp romp (sisterhood shenanigans abound when four lifelong friends embark on a wild weekend trip) that is, according to the project’s largely positive reviews (it stands at 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.3/10), equally raunchy, clever, and brilliantly acted thanks to the inherent chemistry among its leads.
Director Malcolm D. Lee has a winning track record of playing to a specific demographic as well, unveiling successful comedies like Barbershop: The Next Cut ($54 million) and The Best Man Holiday ($70 million) since 2013. Girls Trip is the perfect mix of cast, director, and premise that couldn’t be premiering at a better time; Just like they did with Sisters ($87 million in 2015) and Bad Moms ($113 million in 2016), the film’s underserved audience will turn out to support what’s likely to be the first live-action genre hit of the year.
Expect Girls Trip to pull in anywhere between $21 million and $30 million at 2,583 theaters through Sunday.
3 – War for the Planet of the Apes – $24 million
After mounting a solid $56.3 million debut last week, the third in Fox’s contemporary reboot of the popular Planet of the Apes franchise heads into its second weekend with plenty of competition gunning for the same audience — not a good sign for a blockbuster sequel that already delivered a debut gross around $16 million less than its most recent predecessor in a market where tentpoles often shed between 50 and 60 percent as it is.
While War has generated mostly positive reviews and has performed well at the mid-week box office (it made $5.2 million and $7.1 million on Monday and Tuesday, respectively), the film’s grim subject matter and dark tone starkly contrasts the likes of the lively comedy of Girls Trip and the colorful sci-fi stylings of Valerian, and moviegoers will likely opt for the newer of the wide-release emotional wallopers as Dunkirk, which has arguably left a larger media footprint, storms theaters this weekend.
4 – Spider-Man: Homecoming – $22 million
Despite falling over 62 percent from week one to week two, Spider-Man: Homecoming actually surpassed last week’s No. 1 title, War for the Planet of the Apes, at the Tuesday box office, posting around $400,000 more than the primate-centric blockbuster. While superhero films tend to decline sharply across their sophomore frame, subsequent weekend grosses tend to level off, but Spider-Man: Homecoming will probably lose a decent portion of its audience to Dunkirk throughout round three, and could tumble a further 50 percent over the impending stretch.
5 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – $15 million
While he’s ventured into territory of ethereal dramas (Angel-A) and family animation (Arthur and the Invisibles) across his three-decade career, Luc Besson’s legacy as a filmmaker will likely stem from his penchant for sci-fi epics. Having found worldwide success with titles like The Fifth Element and Lucy, Besson set his sights even higher for his most recent picture, Valerian, reportedly the most expensive French film in history with a towering budget of $180 million.
To break even, Besson’s film, which is based on a popular comic books series, Valérian and Laureline, and stars Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, and Rihanna, will likely need to make over $360 million worldwide — which isn’t entirely unfathomable, as Lucy bagged $463.4 million around the world back in 2014. The problem here is that Lucy, while a success after taking $126.7 million in the U.S. and Canada alone, is likely not tied to Besson’s name in the minds of casual audiences; Lucy‘s buzzy concept and major star wattage (Scarlett Johansson led the picture) most likely contributed to the film’s global victory, and Valerian lacks big-name box office draws (Rihanna, the film’s biggest celebrity asset, has a supporting role) in an age where movie stars already have less sway with ticket buyers.
Given the track record of large-scale actioners across the past year (Matt Damon’s The Great Wall topped out at $45.2 million domestic in February, while Johansson’s own Ghost in the Shell crawled to $40.6 million shortly thereafter), Valerian‘s prospects for making a dent as a relatively unfamiliar property (the comics aren’t nearly as popular in the U.S. as they are overseas) in the region are slim, though its worldwide grosses could save it from going under as it rolls out on the international scene.
Valerian is pacing for a North American bow in the $12 million – $18 million range.
On the specialty front, Gillian Robespierre is hosting an Obvious Child reunion with Jenny Slate in the ’90s-themed comedy Landline, about two sisters (Slate, Abby Quinn) who suspect their father (John Turturro) is having an affair, and attempt to uncover the truth before their mother (Edie Falco) is clued in. The film has thus far received decent reviews from critics (as of publication time, it holds a 72 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.1/10), and the strength of its actor-director duo’s previous pairing should be enough to bolster the film’s debut in limited release, where it should post a healthy per-theater average in the days ahead.