Box Office: ‘Dunkirk’ Battles ‘Girls Trip,’ While ‘Valerian’ Looks to Sputter

Dunkirk
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Dunkirk” is ready for battle against a duo of 28th century special operatives, and a gaggle of wild women on a weekend getaway.

During a rare summer weekend that brings three non-sequel, non-franchise (at least … not yet) movies to theaters, Christopher Nolan’s latest looks to end up on top. The latest estimates put “Dunkirk” between $30 million and $35 million during its opening weekend. Those aren’t numbers that warrant a standing ovation — especially for a production with a speculated $150 million budget — but Warner Bros. is playing the long game.

Critics have come out in force for the World War II movie, earning it a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, and starting the awards season conversation early. After all, July is not a typical Oscar-bait date, but this weekend is the same one when Nolan released his biggest hits (“The Dark Knight” in 2008, “Inception” in 2010, and “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012). It’s also almost 20 years after another World War II movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” opened to $30.6 million and went on to clean up at the Oscars. If the hype continues, the film could have legs through what looks to be a rather slow August.

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The movie is getting the widest 70MM release in more than two decades, which is a testament to the trust the backers have in Nolan. The director shot much of “Dunkirk” with Imax’s extremely high-resolution 2D film cameras. The movie, based on the real-life Battle of Dunkirk, includes a cast with awards season pedigree in Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy. But the ensemble is mostly made up of a band of newcomers including Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, and, yes, Harry Styles.

Then there’s Universal’s “Girls Trip,” which looks to make the most bang for its buck. With a much lower price tag than its fellow new releases, the R-rated comedy should open to about $25 million. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that movies starring black and female actors are routinely undervalued.

“Girls Trip” should break the streak of underperforming R-rated comedies this summer, including “Rough Night” and “The House.” On top of that, it could be the largest opening of any live-action comedy so far this year. It’s led by a foursome at the center — Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith — who go out for a long overdue women’s weekend to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. Director Malcolm D. Lee is known for his first feature, “The Best Man,” and its follow-up, “The Best Man Holiday.”

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Both new movies are pacing well in advance ticket sales. According to Fandango, “Dunkirk” is pacing better than Nolan’s last major release, “Interstellar” ($47.5 million opening weekend), and “Girls Trip” is outperforming “Bad Moms” ($23.8 million opening).

Finally, to round out the trio, there is “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Director Luc Besson’s big-budget adaptation of the French comic series from his own EuropaCorp, and distributed in the U.S. by STXfilms, is eyeing an opening in the low $20 million range.

There is some risk mitigation at play here — the bulk of the reported $180 million production budget was covered with foreign pre-sales, equity financing, and tax subsidies. STX took on marketing and distribution for the film after EuropaCorp’s partner, Relativity, went under. The movie is believed to be the most expensive independent movie of all time.

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Film Review: ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

The international box office could come to the rescue. The overseas audience is usually more drawn to spectacle, and may be more familiar with the source material. But, even so, there’s almost no escaping that $20 million is far from an awe-inspiring number stateside.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne form the central pairing in the sci-fi epic about a team of space-and-time-traveling agents. Clive Owen, Rihanna, and Ethan Hawke round out the cast. The reviews have been mixed — it currently holds a 71% of Rotten Tomatoes — but for what it’s worth, all three fresh releases have generally impressed critics.

Only time will tell which gambles pay off. Like the old joke begins, “Harry Styles, Queen Latifah, and Rihanna walk into a bar …” This weekend will deliver the punchline: Who stumbles home liquored up and happy, and who ends up picking up the tab?

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  1. YOLANDA says:

    SETH, you stupid fool, American audiences love spectacle too. I hope it does well just to spite you.

  2. The Covered Truth says:

    Valerian is a truly UNDERRATED master piece! It also shows a diverse range of actors that is starkly missing in US Hollywood – most notedly Chinese man for having any important role and the film portraying them in an attractive way to domestic female and male audiences. Shout out to Besson for breaking this silent conspiring rule in Hollywood!
    The film is inspiring in many ways, when you get out if the theater you feel that there is much left that is possible, it’s optimism. To scientifically inclined fellows, you’ll definitely be inspired by the amount if creativity for the technology Valerian showcases to us being possible. Virtual reality trans-deminsional shopping anyone…

    The leads have a sort of fun playful relationship that no wonder Hollywood rejects, because Hollywood seem to only accept romances that is sweeping and charming from the male and that both leads “should” have unrealistic flirting scripts that were rewritten multiple times, narrowly merging back to altogether to one single type. We should not say what kind of relationship has chemistry, people who even seldomly speak can have Oscar romance if filmed and narrated in a certain way, but to reality anyone can love another in ways that is more organic than formulaic Hollywood romance. So I am not sure why critics can so arrogantly do their best (and worse) judge a romance having negative chemistry.

    This film is an awe inspiring one where we audiences actually learn some things, moral, life, technology and we almost don’t deserve it, and definitely don’t deserve more sci fi masterpiece if we can’t learn from this movie.

    *Let’s be smart, all the critics pointing Valerian and City of Thousand Planets down is praising Dunkirk, doesn’t that smell plotted? Only one film can succeed in one place at one time, they obviously choose domestic film that is also more politically correct while muting Valerian silence for bringing in any fresh air and preventing it from shouting to the public of how American audience can like MORE THAN HOLLYWOOD BUBBLE. Critics say the truth, but they say ONLY ONE SIDE and psychologically imbuing negativity to even something positive or neutral. After all “taste is in the sense of the beholder, why not skew one’s perception?” Go see this first then decide if an age old history tale Dunkirk is worth your second ticket, which it may very well be, but past is second to future! :) *

  3. Bill B. says:

    After seeing the trailers a few times, I’d be shocked if Valerian and the City of a Thousand planets weren’t a major flop.

    • The Covered Truth says:

      Hey I loved Valerian because I stepped out of the critics review bubble and tried to see what’s fascinating…I didn’t have to try, the film showed me well. It’s not just a visual feast that critics are trying to “dehumanize” analogy to film. They say it’s only a visual fest to actually say it’s not worth it, but there’s way more than just cool visuals and inspiring technology. The diversity and inclusion of Chinese man in positive attractive roles are long overdue, even this one put the actor in the second row, but every actor’s role in the film is well glorified rather than being superficially setup in Hollywood to argue by the numbers while at the same time not representing the actor well in the film – eg Donnie Yen in Rogue One. Who would love a blind, old human? The Chinese guy in Valerian is handsome and has a pivotal role to contribute that is also appealing to audiences. Sorry, I just had to say that because I have never seen that kind of Justice and Truth in a film before.

  4. LOL says:

    America, bet on black.

  5. nerdrage says:

    Dunkirk could be the rare non-franchise sequel that actually does well. Valerian is going to bomb seriously.

    • Adam says:

      I don’t think it will lose money for the simple fact that almost 100% of its financing is not from any US studio. While the film won’t do much business in the US I think it’s going to do extremely well internationally.

  6. adam says:

    A war movie that doesn’t involve ANY US soldiers at all and about a battle that most people in the mainstream have never heard about or know nothing about. There’s no way “Dunkirk” will make more than 30 mil on its opening weekend in the US.

  7. Richard says:

    20 million plus for Valarian is awesome

  8. suck face says:

    Nolan cuts out the blood and violence in this war movie. Nolan plays it tediously safe without life-threatening stakes. Most over-rated conceited, elitist snob film-maker to date. This WW2 flick is an absolute failure and wash-out. Nolan is a fraud and phoney.

  9. Jason S. says:

    Wasn’t Inglorious Bastards a WW2 movie? That was a lot more recent than SPR 20 years ago.

    • Ellie says:

      IB was set in WWII, beyond that (and CW’s performance) it was the equivalent of a dim teenager’s pulp magazine, which is probably exactly the aim of QT.

  10. jim says:

    valerian gets my money this weekend. Dunkirk look interesting but 2d movies look as good at home.

  11. Jimmy says:

    Valerian looks great and I will there to watch it in the theatre. He never makes a bad movie.

  12. logoconvergence says:

    I think it looks great! Already got my ticket!

  13. Dunstan says:

    The trailers for “Valerian…” make it look God-awful. I wouldn’t see it for free.

    • jedi77 says:

      Me neither. Looks like a total crapfest in my book.
      To each his own, but I just don’t understand how this can look appealing to anyone.

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