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'Dunkirk' and 'Valerian' Bring Big Budgets to the Weekend, but Will They Bring Big Box Office?

by Brad Brevet
 

 
July 20, 2017

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: With an estimated $19.8 million, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is heading toward an opening weekend right around $50-52 million. It's a great start for the WWII feature, especially given the holds Nolan's films have shown in recent history as well as the critical response and now the "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, a notch above the "B+" audiences gave Interstellar.

Additionally, Dunkirk has now been released in 46 international markets where it has so far grossed $21.2 million after releasing earlier this week in a handful of territories. We'll have more on the overall international performance with tomorrow morning's report.

In second is Universal's release of Girls Trip, which is scorching the weekend, delivering an estimated $11.68 million on Friday, heading toward a $29+ million opening. The film should also show long legs looking ahead after receiving a rare "A+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

Finally, STX's release of EuropaCorp's Valerian is drowning against the competition as was expected. The film brought in an estimated $6.5 million on Friday and is looking at an opening around $16+ million. The film received a "B-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

You can check out all of the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Dunkirk led the way last night, delivering $5.5 million from Thursday night previews in ~3,400 theaters beginning at 6PM. This compares to Star Trek Beyond, which also delivered $5.5 million before opening with $59.2 million last July and is an improvement on the $4.23 million Jason Bourne brought in from preview showings ahead of its $59.2 million debut.

Other comparisons used in our weekend preview below include:

STX's release of the EuropaCorp production Valerian delivered $1.7 million from Thursday previews that began at 5PM at ~2,600 locations. This is better than the $1 million in previews Jupiter Ascending brought in before opening with $18.3 million in February 2015 as well as the $1.4 million brought in by Ender's Game before its $27 million debut. It's also an improvement over a film such as Immortals, which brought in $1.4 million before opening with $32.2 million, but compared to Warcraft, which we noted in our preview below, that film enjoyed $3.1 million in previews before opening with $24.1 million.

Finally, Universal's Girls Trip also delivered $1.7 million in previews, which began at 7PM in 2,195 theaters. This is similar to the $1.8 million Think Like a Man Too brought in before opening with $29.2 million and well above the $530k About Last Night delivered before its $25.6 million debut. Additionally, Bad Moms brought in just over $2 million from preview showings in 2,550 theaters, which included ~$100k from group screenings on Wednesday prior to its $23.8 million opening last July.

We'll take a closer look at things tomorrow morning once Friday estimates come in. For now you can check out our weekend preview below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Rave reviews pave the way for this weekend's release of Christopher Nolan's World War II feature Dunkirk, a $150 million production critics have declared a "masterpiece" and the first surefire Oscar contender of the year. Additionally, STX is debuting Luc Besson's $200+ million sci-fi feature Valerian, the second of three original features debuting this weekend amid a franchise laden summer. Dialing back the spending a little, but not the potential, Universal's female-driven comedy Girls Trip carries a meager $19 million budget, but is looking for big results and a possible second place finish as it enters a marketplace begging for something that isn't specifically targeting the male demographic.

Poised for a #1 finish, Warner Bros.' release of Dunkirk debuts this weekend in 3,720 theaters, including several IMAX and PLF locations, some of which will be playing the film in 70mm. Nolan's recent history is peppered with three Batman films along with three original features, and while 2006's The Prestige only debuted with $14.8 million, Inception kicked things off with $62.7 million and Interstellar delivered $47.5 million as Nolan became more and more of a household name while also delivering films that appealed to a wide audience.

In fact, beyond opening weekend, Nolan's films tend to play for a very long time. Following the $47.5 million opening, Interstellar went on to gross $188 million domestically, a nearly 4x multiplier. Going back to the release of Insomnia in 2002, Nolan's films have delivered, on average, a 3.69x multiplier, best among them the 4.66x multiplier for Inception. So whether Dunkirk debuts on the high or low end of expectations this weekend, Nolan's history bodes well for the film's future. Also working in the film's favor is the Metacritic score, which has been holding steady at 96 while online ticket retailer Fandango.com reports the film is outselling Interstellar at the same point in the company's sales cycle.

Looking at IMDb page view data for additional signs of how Dunkirk will perform we find it outpacing Captain Phillips ($25m opening), Unbroken ($30.6m opening) and Fury ($23.7m opening) while at the same time outpacing Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation ($55.5m opening) and The Magnificent Seven ($34.7m opening). Compared to Interstellar, Dunkirk is pacing slightly behind and the same goes for Mad Max: Fury Road, but that's to be expected given some films are a little more Internet friendly than others.

Industry expectations for the film's opening are around $35-40 million, which feels a little conservative given the buzz, particularly over the last week or so, once reviews started to come in. However, we used similar logic last weekend with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes and vastly overestimated how that film would perform. Nevertheless, we're still anticipating an opening anywhere from $45-55 million. While the majority of big releases lately have been targeting adult males, Dunkirk should appeal to an audience that might not necessarily be coming out for Spider-Man: Homecoming and War of the Apes, helping push the film's opening higher than anticipated.

Internationally, Dunkirk debuted on Wednesday in seven European markets, bringing in $2.2 million, including $1.1 million from France alone. This weekend the film will release in 46 total markets including Russia, Korea, Australia, UK and Spain.

Second place could be interesting with Fox's War for the Planet of the Apes likely to drop anywhere from 54-58% and we're anticipating something right in the middle, a 56% drop for a weekend right around $24-25 million, pushing it over $100 million by Sunday. Will that be enough to secure second place or will Universal's Girls Trip win the war?

Debuting in 2,583 theaters, Girls Trip is looking very strong with the studio anticipating a $20+ million opening for the Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man Holiday) directed feature from producer Will Packer (Think Like a Man, Ride Along). The R-rated female driven comedy stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah and Fandango.com reports ticket sales are already outpacing those for Bad Moms, which debuted with $23.8 million last July.

IMDb page view data at the same point in the release cycle shows Girls Trip neck-and-neck with the likes of About Last Night, Think Like a Man Too and The Best Man Holiday, all of which debuted over $25 million with Best Man Holiday opening just over $30 million. While we're not quite ready to project a $30 million debut, though it wouldn't be a surprise to see it climb that high, an opening over $25 million looks like a sure thing at this point.

We're currently expecting Spider-Man: Homecoming to finish in fourth position after it dropped a rather surprising 62.2% last weekend, the largest second weekend drop for any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. This weekend we're expecting a dip around 50% or so and a weekend around $21-22 million for a domestic cume that should reach $250 million by Sunday.

Rounding out the top five we have STX's release of EuropaCorp's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, debuting in 3,553 theaters. Directed by Luc Besson, the original sci-fi feature is based on the 1967 French graphic novel series "Valerian and Laureline" by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières and is the most expensive French production ever, coming in at 197.47€* ($209m USD). The net budget for Valerian, however, is closer to $150 million of which an impressive 90% has been covered with foreign pre-sales, equity financing and tax subsidies. When it comes to STX's domestic distribution duties, they are receiving a distribution fee while EuropaCorp financed the entire film as well as prints and advertising.

Industry expectations for this weekend have Valerian opening in the low $20 millions, which not only seems a little disappointing, but possibly a little aggressive considering the surfeit of titles targeting a similar demographic in theaters right now and the lack of audience familiarity with the source material. Last weekend alone showed the back-to-back release of Spider-Man and War of the Apes most likely ate into collections for both films, which makes launching an original IP at this time difficult, especially given the marketing needs to educate the audience as to what exactly Valerian is while at the same time getting them excited to see it.

Looking at comparisons using IMDb page view data the film has been a bit erratic leading up to release, though it is performing moderately well opposite similar titles along with films such as Warcraft, which carried big budgets and relied heavily on international earnings to reach the break even point.

Overall, we see Valerian having a tough time hitting that $20 million mark. Our expectations peg it more in the $16-18 million range this weekend with a slight chance it could deliver $21 million should things work out just right.

Internationally, Valerian debuts in Germany this weekend along with 17 other markets with the French release set for next Wednesday, June 26.

Finally, as of Wednesday, Wonder Woman was up to $383.5 million domestically. Expected to bring in another $4 million or so this weekend, it will top Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and become the second highest grossing film of 2017 so far.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Dunkirk (3,720 theaters) - $51.0 M
  • Girls Trip (2,591 theaters) - $26.0 M
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (4,100 theaters) - $24.8 M
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (4,130 theaters) - $21.7 M
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (3,553 theaters) - $17.0 M
  • Despicable Me 3 (3,521 theaters) - $10.5 M
  • The Big Sick (2,597 theaters) - $5.2 M
  • Baby Driver (2,503 theaters) - $5.1 M
  • Wonder Woman (1,971 theaters) - $4.2 M
  • Wish Upon (2,154 theaters) - $2.8 M

* Valerian budget courtesy CNC.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.



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