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Will Nolan's Dunkirk Be a Hit or Miss at the Box Office?

By Brian Gallagher — July 18th, 2017

While it underperformed by quite a bit last weekend, by most box office standards, 20th Century Fox's War For the Planet Of the Apes still managed to come out on top, taking in $56.2 million, which was more on par with the franchise opener Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($54.8 million) in 2011, than its predecessor Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($72.6 million) in 2014. This weekend, those damn dirty apes go up against three vastly different newcomers, Warner Bros.' World War II epic Dunkirk, Universal's R-rated comedy Girls Trip and STX Entertainment's sci-fi thriller Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. While Girls Trip and Valerian are expected to open with solid numbers, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk should have no trouble coming out on top with a predicted $60.3 million.

Box Office Mojo reports that the Dunkirk, from heralded director Christopher Nolan, will open in approximately 3,600 theaters, followed by director Luc Besson's Valerian in 3,400 theaters and director Malcolm D. Lee's comedy Girls Trip opening in roughly 2,500 theaters. All three newcomers are critically-acclaimed, though, with the WWII drama earning an impressive 95% Rotten Tomatoes score, while Valerian has posted a 70% rating and Girls Trip has an 88% rating going into its opening weekend. If Dunkirk hits this projection, it certainly wouldn't be a record debut for Christopher Nolan, but it would be an improvement over his last outing.

Barring Christopher Nolan taking on another epic tentpole franchise like his Dark Knight trilogy, it will likely be difficult for the director to top his opening weekend record, $160.8 million, set by The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. That tally was almost as much as the domestic total for his last film, the 2014 mind-bender Interstellar, which opened with $47.5 million en route to a domestic tally of $188 million, an international total of $487.1 million for a global tally of $675.1 million, from a $175 million budget. While the film performed well, it was down sharply from his last original film, 2010's Inception, which debuted with $62.7 million, en route to a domestic tally of $292.5 million, $532.9 million from foreign markets for a global tally of $825.5 million, from a $160 million budget.

While the story is said to be quite complex, yet simple at the same time, this epic drama based on true events from World War II is certainly more accessible that an exceedingly complex story like Interstellar, which could be another reason why Dunkirk out-grosses Interstellar. The director is also trying to tap into a new audience demographic with the casting of Harry Styles, the singer who became an international pop star with the group One Direction, who makes his feature film debut. The director recently compared the casting of Harry Styles to casting Heath Ledger as The Joker, a bold statement to be sure, although it will be interesting to see if any young fans of Harry Styles will check out a World War II movie like Dunkirk just for a glimpse at Harry on the big screen. The cast also includes Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, James D'arcy and Aneurin Barnard.

We're predicting that War For the Planet of the Apes will drop to the second spot with $28.7 million, followed by Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with $24.9 million, Spider-Man: Homecoming with $23.7 million and Girls Trip rounding out the top 5 with $20.4 million. The top 10 will likely be rounded out by Despicable Me 3 ($11.6 million), Baby Driver ($6.4 million), The Big Sick ($5.2 million), Wonder Woman ($4.3 million) and Wish Upon ($2.2 million). Also opening in limited release is CFI Releasing's The Fencer, Parade Deck Films' The Gracefield Incident, Magnolia's comedy Landline, Music Box Films' drama The Midwife, Vertical Entertainment's family film Scales: Mermaids Are Real and Strand's drama The Untamed.

Looking ahead to next weekend, only two movies arrive in wide release, Focus Features' action-thriller Atomic Blonde and Sony's The Emjoi Movie. Also debuting in limited release is Indican's documentary 30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story, Vertical Entertainment's drama A Family Man, IFC's drama From the Land of the Moon, Paramount Vantage's documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, A24's drama Menashe, Sony's comedy Mubarakan, Magnolia's comedy Person To Person, Brainstorm Media's drama Strange Weather and Well Go USA's foreign film Wolf Warrior 2. Take a look at our box office projections for the weekend of July 21, and check back on Sunday for the top 10 estimates.

1Dunkirk
2War for the Planet of the Apes
3Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
4Spider-Man: Homecoming
5Girls Trip
6Despicable Me 3
7Baby Driver
8The Big Sick
9Wonder Woman
10Wish Upon

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