Box Office Report: 'Dunkirk' Greatly Exceeds Expectations; 'Girls Trip' a Success, 'Valerian' Not So Much

Box Office Report: 'Dunkirk' Greatly Exceeds Expectations; 'Girls Trip' a Success, 'Valerian' Not So Much

Jul 24, 2017

DunkirkHere are your estimated three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):

1. Dunkirk - $50.5 million ($50.5 million total)

2. Girls Trip - $30.3 million ($30.3 million total)

3. Spider-Man: Homecoming - $22.0 million ($251.7 million total)

4. War of the Planet of the Apes - $20.4 million ($97.7 million total)

5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - $17.0 million ($17.0 million total)

6. Despicable Me 3 - $12.7 million ($213.3 million total)

7. Baby Driver - $6.0 million ($84.2 million total)

8. The Big Sick - $5.0 million ($24.5 million total)

9. Wonder Woman - $4.6 million ($389.0 million total)

10. Wish Upon - $2.4 million ($15.5 million total)


The Big Stories

Never underestimate Christopher Nolan. That should be posted on the walls of every tracking company out there, along with “Your usefulness is waning.” For weeks now it was being reported that Dunkirk was going to have a modest opening of somewhere in the mid 30 millions. That is discounting the idea that Nolan has become a name moviegoers associate with quality spectacle and that critics reciprocate (most of them anyway) with very positive reviews.

You probably already know how the story ends this weekend. Tracking companies were wrong again. Audiences came out winners and Warner Bros. has another title capable of mopping up the mess King Arthur left on aisle five. But they weren’t the only ones coming out victorious this weekend.


“Sometimes That’s Enough”

Consider this list of number-one films since April 14: The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman, Cars 3, Transformers: The Last Knight, Despicable Me 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes. You can also throw The Lego Batman Movie, Logan, Kong: Skull Island and even Beauty and the Beast on the pile. That means Dunkirk is joining only Hidden Figures, Split, Get Out and The Boss Baby as the only original, nonfranchise films to open at the top of the box office. Unless, that is, you consider Christopher Nolan to be a franchise unto himself.

Dunkirk, with its “A-“ Cinemascore and 92% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, scored the second-best non-Batman opening for Christopher Nolan with $50.5 million. Inception (B+/86%) opened to $62.7 million and Interstellar (B+/72%) started with $47.5 million. Batman Begins (A/85%) actually began with $48.7 million back in 2005. Numbers, numbers and more numbers.

How about this fact? Dunkirk is the 17th film to open in July between $50-60 million. Twelve of those films were sequels, remakes and/or comic book adaptations. The four “original” films were Despicable Me, I Robot, Men in Black and The Village (I, Robot was, indeed, an Isaac Asimov adaptation.) Factoring in The Village into any average of multiple stability just simply isn’t fair. But if you are curious, the average multiple of all those films is a steady 3.25. (This does not include War for the Planet of the Apes, as its story has not been fully written yet.)

We can look at that number, sure. But we can also look at Nolan’s own multiples. Discounting Memento, which was a limited release that still went on to gross $25.5 million despite never opening in more than 531 theaters, we have:

Insomnia (3.21), Batman Begins (4.21), The Prestige (3.58), The Dark Knight (3.36), Inception (4.65), The Dark Knight Rises (2.78), Interstellar (3.95)

That multiple averages out to 3.67 (with his July releases averaging 3.59.) Dunkirk has the potential to play like Saving Private Ryan did back in 1998, a film that began with the modest $30.5 million that tracking companies wished Dunkirk did, went on to make over $216 million domestically and became the highest-grossing film of that year.

Dunkirk may not go that far, but with word of mouth, can it reach $200 million? If we just look at the numbers above for a starting point, our first estimate would put it somewhere between $164-186 million. With a good shot to remain at number one next week as well, the conversation will be in full swing and we’ll be watching. It has added an additional $55.4 million overseas so far. Expect that number to go much higher.


A Girls Trip to the Thousand Planet City

Remember how I said Warner Bros wasn’t the only one in good shape this weekend? Be sure to give Universal a high five as well. The studio folks have a $19 million production aimed at an audience mostly neglected this summer. No, not women. They soured on Snatched pretty quickly after Mother’s Day ($19.5 million opening weekend and $26.2 million total afterwards) and they outright rejected Rough Night on sight with just $21.7 million overall. The ladies were too invested in Wonder Woman to care.

But now it's time for a dumb vacation and Universal gave them Girls Trip. Audiences gave it back the “A+” Cinemascore reserved primarily for Pixar titles, underdog sports tales, rah-rah America films, faith-based spectacles and films aimed at African-American audiences. If you doubt that, do know that some of the titles on that list include Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, Woodlawn, Soul Surfer, Patriots Day and Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?.

$30.3 million later and Girls Trip is already headed towards profit for Universal. It’s Malcolm D. Lee’s third straight film to open to $20 million or more after Barbershop: The Next Cut and The Best Man Holiday (which started with $30.1 million.) Girls Trip is right in that film’s wheelhouse but as that was a November opening, it may be headed for a slightly better multiple than 2.34. Though maybe not much more.

In July the only previous films to boast a higher opening with an African-American protagonist are five Will Smith films (Hancock, I Robot, Men in Black, Men in Black II and Bad Boys II), and an Eddie Murphy (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps). Throw in the Wayan Bros.’ Scary Movie (featuring Girls Trip’s Regina Hall) if you like, but nothing of the likes of Girls Trip and certainly little of the black-female variety. The Village, Ghostbusters (2016), Lucy, Scary Movie, Salt and Trainwreck are about it for true above-the-title, female-led movies. Arguments can be made for coleads up and down, but this is where it's at for top billing and Girls Trip is unquestionably a success for Universal, which aside from The Great Wall and The Mummy, is having another stellar year.

The same cannot be said for STX Entertainment, which is staring down its first true disaster. At least here in the States. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets cost $209.184 million (according to Box Office Mojo) and though that money came from a variety of investors (just count the “in association with” credits during the film’s prologue) this really is looking like one of the disasters of the summer and the year.

A $17 million start is bad. Real bad, actually. To put it in perspective of just budgets, the lowest-grossing opening weekend for a film that cost over $200 million was Universal’s Battleship and even that was $25.5 million. Funny enough, we have to go back to the film Valerian is drawing comparisons to (The Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending) to see a film with such a large budget ($176 million) open to such piddly numbers ($18.3 million). 

Valerian now joins just a handful of films to cost over $175 million to open with less than $20 million, including Jupiter Ascending and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ($15.3 million). Universal’s 47 Ronin opened on Christmas Day (a Wednesday in 2013) and had made just $20.6 million in its first five days. Valerian could be looking at no more than $40 million domestic and will be dependent on Besson’s fandom overseas to make up the rest.


Tales of the Top 10

Spider-Man: Homecoming earned about $20 million this weekend. Last week I said it had to stay above $20.7 million to maintain pace with Man of Steel. And it made $22 million. It is now just a couple million ahead of the DC film, which finished with $291 million. Sony obviously would love to push that up to $300 million but it isn't going to help with putting out its own The Emoji Movie and The Dark Tower over the next week.

Even if both of its box office prospects look dire (its animated film isn’t even screening for most of the country’s critics and don’t be shocked if the Stephen King adaptation is held until two days before it opens to avoid shredding), both will open ahead of Spider-Man and push it down the list until it's likely no better than seventh the first weekend in August. That is where Spidey could have the slight advantage as Man of Steel was already down to 10th on its 5th weekend. Watch for an over/under of $11.4 million next weekend while it basks in a current international take of over $571 million.

Last week’s number one, War for the Planet of the Apes, took quite the tumble. Audiences clearly were looking for more action and less bravura filmmaking out of the completion of this trilogy. The 63% drop has placed this film squarely between two other Fox efforts, The Wolverine and 2005’s Fantastic Four, which were at $94.6 and $100.1 million, respectively, after 10 days. Those films ended up grossing $132.5 and $154.6 million, so this appears to be the final range for a film that deserved to do better. It has currently made nearly $150 million worldwide but still needs roughly another $300 million to be in profit.

While the folks at Universal can high five again over Girls Trip, it is Despicable Me 3 that they should really be partying over. With over $727 million worldwide, it will be passing The Fate of the Furious as their most profitable enterprise of 2017. Domestically the film is still $23 million ahead of the original film and is likely headed for a final gross somewhere around $265 million.

Sony’s Baby Driver may not be in that category, but it is officially a success for the studio and Edgar Wright. It is a little over a million ahead of John Wick: Chapter Two’s pace and at this point looks to at least outgross its $92 million. The magic number is $100 million here, folks. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out there and help make this happen. Same thing for The Big Sick, which continues to be on pace to pass (500) Days of Summer to become the highest-grossing Sundance release in the summer since 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine.

Finally, a hearty congratulations is in store to Patti Jenkins, Gal Gadot, DC, Warner Bros. and everyone involved with Wonder Woman as it finally passed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to become the highest-grossing film of the summer in the U.S. with $389 million. Another $390 million internationally and it is currently fourth in the world. It will likely still be passed by Despicable Me 3 and probably Spider-Man: Homecoming, but the achievement is still worthy of celebration.

Of the 46 films to open with over $100 million in their opening weekend, it is only the 16th to have gone on to gross three times their start. (Seven of those 16 were for films opening on the low end between $100-110 million.) But only Shrek 2 (4.08) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (3.77) had better multiples than what Wonder Woman is currently at. With a 3.76 multiple through this weekend, Star Wars is going to fall sometime this week. Jenkins’ film would need $421.7 million to beat Shrek 2’s multiple. It is just slightly behind the pace of Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, which grossed $403 million. All signs point to Wonder Woman achieving this milestone as well and becoming just the 27th film in history to do it. Congratulations indeed.

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