Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is dominating the box office and heading for a surprisingly strong opening weekend of at least $50 million from 3,720 North American locations, early estimates showed Friday.
Opening day for the highly praised Warner Bros. World War II drama is heading for more than $20 million, including $5.5 million in Thursday night previews. As of early Friday afternoon, the studio is maintaining its guidance of a Friday-Sunday total in the $35 million to $40 million range, but rivals are forecasting that the final figure will be far higher — ranging from $53 million to $62 million.
Universal’s launch of R-rated comedy “Girls Trip” is also performing solidly with an opening day of around $12 million, portending a launch weekend of at least $25 million at 2,591 sites. Elsewhere, the launch of Luc Besson’s fast-priced sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” appears to be coming in below modest expectations at around only $18 million from 3,553 venues.
Fox’s second frame of “War for the Planet of the Apes” and Sony’s third weekend of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” are each heading for the $18 million to $20 million range.
“Dunkirk” is getting the widest 70MM release in more than two decades, a testament to the trust that exhibitors have in Nolan. The Thursday night preview numbers of $5.5 million included $1.6 million from 402 Imax screens for a stellar $3,980 per location average.
“Dunkirk” is based on the eight-day evacuation of 300,000 stranded Allied troops in 1940 from France. It stars Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, and Harry Styles. Film critics have already offered extensive praise for the cinematography, direction, acting, and musical score.
Nolan shot “Dunkirk” in France, the Netherlands, the U.K. and California. The Warner Bros. release has a reported price tag of $150 million and a relatively brisk 106-minute running time.
Early audience response Thursday night was impressive, with 57% giving “Dunkirk” an excellent rating and 32% calling it “very good,” according to comScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 92% fresh. “Dunkirk” is also opening in 46 international markets this weekend.
Nolan’s most recent movie, “Interstellar,” opened with $47.5 million domestically on Nov. 7-9, 2014, and went on to gross $675 million worldwide.
“Girls Trip” appears to be breaking the streak of underperforming R-rated comedies such as “Rough Night” and “The House.” Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith star in a story of four friends attending the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.
Universal announced this week that it has signed “Girls Trip” director Malcolm D. Lee to a first-look deal. Critics have backed “Girls Trip” with an 87% approval rating. Early audience response on Thursday night was strong with 55% rating it “excellent” and 27% as “very good,” according to comScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” an adaptation of the French comic series from EuropaCorp, stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as 28th Century special agents preventing the destruction of the universe. The bulk of the $180 million production budget was covered with foreign pre-sales, equity financing, and tax subsidies. STX took on marketing and distribution in the U.S. after EuropaCorp’s partner Relativity Media floundered.
“Dunkirk” and “Girls Trip” are coming into the market at a time when the overall summer box office has been a disappointment with a decline of 7.4% to $2.62 billion at the domestic box office through July 19, according to comScore. The underperformance has pulled down the year’s total by 1% to $6.38 billion.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said the industry is hoping that “Dunkirk” can retain its appeal through the rest of the summer. “With ‘Dunkirk’ already wowing audiences in comScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak audience survey and critics singing the film’s praises, this could be that rare breed of summer film that will have the kind of long-term playability usually reserved for late year Oscar contenders,” he added.
Online ticketing service Fandango reported Friday that “Dunkirk” was its top seller, outselling “Interstellar” at the same point while “Girls Trip” was outselling “Bridesmaids” and “Bad Moms.”