Weekend Box Office (July 21 - 23, 2017)
THIS WEEKEND Following a five-week diet of franchise movies that were all threequels or beyond, Hollywood shifts gears entirely with three original films that put new stories on the big screen. Hoping to lead the pack is Christopher Nolan who returns with his latest motion picture, the World War II thriller Dunkirk. Artistically, the PG-13 film is getting some of the best marks of any movie this year. But commercially, it is a riskier project given the period setting and the lack of a marquee star like past films had with Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, or just Batman.
Reviews have been stellar, but that was expected. The movie is custom built to excite film critics and Academy voters as well as die-hard devotees of Nolan who will see anything he makes. The big question is how much appeal and excitement is there outside those groups. Dunkirk should play to the same crowd that came out for 2014's Fury, another very well-reviewed WWII drama with a popular star involved. It can be argued that Nolan fans will follow him to Dunkirk more than Brad Pitt fans would follow him to Fury which debuted to $23.7M in the traditionally slower time of mid-October.
The new war flick should open bigger, but reaching the heights of Interstellar and Inception look unlikely given the more narrow appeal. Landing in 3,720 theaters, Dunkirk might debut to about $38M this weekend.
Universal offers an entirely different movie with the raunchy R-rated buddy comedy Girls Trip which brings together Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish. The genre has suffered all year at the box office, in large part due to films not delivering the goods. This one does. And then some. Reviews are terrific but it's the word of mouth which should lead to a hot run in multiplexes. Starpower and the concept will bring people in upfront, but the laugh out loud nature of this film will lead to instant recommendations on social media. Opening weekend crowds should skew female and black, but will broaden out over time as buzz spreads.
The marketing push has been strong and turnout will be solid. Plus so many comedies this year have disappointed so audiences are thirsty for a two-hour laugh marathon. And few films this year have successfully mobilized African American moviegoers in large numbers so there is a need for this film right now. By early August, it should become the top grossing comedy of 2017 and will likely keep that title until November. Opening in over 2,500 venues, Girls Trip might bank about $29M this weekend.
Likely to make a more quiet splash this weekend is the sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets from Luc Besson. The PG-13 pic should play only to genre fans and they have plenty of other - and bigger - options to choose from right now. There is just too little space now for this one to breathe. Reviews are mixed and starpower is low which certainly doesn't help. And the source material is not known in the U.S. so there is no built-in audience to tap into. STX rolls into more than 3,400 locations and might find about $16M this weekend.
Caesar will drop from first place in his second weekend and War for the Planet of the Apes could see a decline of around 55%, quite respectable for a sci-fi threequeel. That would put Fox at $25M for the frame and a cume of $103M. Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming may slide by half to about $23M for a new total of $253M through the third round.
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Watch the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time.
LAST YEAR Docking in the number one spot was Star Trek Beyond with $59.3M which slumped to a new low for the current series of three installments. Paramount found its way to $158.8M. Universal's The Secret Life of Pets held well with $29.6M in its third weekend. The horror hit Lights Out debuted in third with an impressive $21.7M on its way to a sturdy $67.3M for Warners. Toon sequel Ice Age: Collision Course bowed in fourth with just $21.4M heading to a $64.1M finish for Fox repping just 16% of the $405M worldwide take. Ghostbusters tumbled in its sophomore session to $21M in fifth place.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: July 20, 2017 at 5:30PM ET
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