Weekend Forecast: Will ‘Dunkirk’ & ‘Girls Trip’ Break Out? How Will ‘Valerian’ Fare in Competitive Market?

A trio of new releases open this weekend as the market continues to crowd with well-reviewed films. Our final analysis and forecast:

Dunkirk
Warner Bros.

PROS:

  • Christopher Nolan’s status as one of the few filmmakers able to sell a film with his name alone is a major commodity, especially with his past summer success. His fan base has continued to grow over the years thanks to a consistent output of critical and commercial mega-hits like The Dark Knight TrilogyInception, and Interstellar. His notable appeal to young adults could be vital to the film’s breakout potential, while older audiences will be enticed by this film’s subject matter. For those who have lamented the absence of non-franchise summer blockbusters, this is their time to show up at theaters.
  • Sources tell Boxoffice that pre-sales have been very strong for both Thursday and Friday as well as the remainder of the weekend, further reflecting the anticipation among Nolan’s fans and growing interest beyond that crowd. Pre-sales trends are reportedly ahead of the likes of War for the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar.
  • With more than 80 reviews counted, the film is Certified Fresh at 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing). Its current average 9 out of 10 rating from reviewers is very rare for a tentpole release. This kind of reception could be a major drawing factor for casual audiences not already sold on the film, particularly adult crowds and military families.
  • Social media buzz has been on fire for months, and has only continued to gain momentum in recent weeks. The film’s Twitter footprint has vastly outpaced that of Interstellar at the same point before release, as well as American SniperGravityJason Bourne, Mad Max: Fury RoadThe MartianMission: Impossible – Rogue NationSpectre, and Star Trek Beyond.
  • With plenty of talk about being an awards season player, we continue to expect the film will have a lengthy run at the box office as it aims to play strongly well beyond opening weekend.

CONS:

  • Social media metrics come with a few asterisks in this film’s case: Harry Styles’ presence has his young female fan base heavily engaged in conversation about the movie, while the film’s title lends to some probability of tweets unrelated to the movie itself. In general, we continue to expect some inflation of buzz by overseas (particularly the U.K.) audiences, but there’s little doubt that American crowds will be turning up in strong numbers as well.
  • Although critics and Nolan himself have emphasized this is an audience-friendly “action thriller” rather than the traditional dramatic war film, perception from the average moviegoer will naturally lean toward the latter until word of mouth settles in — especially since this particular historic World War II battle isn’t quite as well known among Americans as others.
  • The film opens in an already challenging market with adult males being a major component in Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes‘ back-to-back successful debuts.
  • Although the film boasts a handful of well-liked names and faces, they have been largely absent from marketing (intentionally). Unlike Inception, there’s no Leonardo DiCaprio lead to help sell the film beyond the Nolan faithful. Still, that’s where the filmmaker and film itself could fill some of the gap, potentially.

Girls Trip
Universal

PROS:

  • Counter-programming is the name of the game here as female crowds have another late summer comedy to plan around for a “girls’ night out” — a strategy that worked very well for Bad Moms last year.
  • Reviews are strong with a current 88 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, further bolstering the potential for this to outperform the likes of Rough Night and Snatched. Twitter buzz has likewise been very positive.
  • The cast should also serve as an advantage with several notable leading stars.

CONS:

  • It shouldn’t have a direct effect, but the year’s streak of under-performing R-rated comedies is something to consider.
  • Facebook activity hasn’t been as robust as Bad Moms pre-release, but that’s not a particularly worrying sign.
  • Strong pre-sales could be a result of older female crowds creating some front-loaded behavior to weekend sales. Again, though, that’s a very minor concern at this point.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
STX Entertainment

PROS:

  • Based on a popular French comic series, there is definitely some appeal here to existing fans and young males.
  • Filmmaker Luc Besson has a solid resume of hits under his belt. His credits, in addition to a widespread marketing campaign, could aid awareness and interest.
  • Social media buzz has been notably healthy across both Twitter and Facebook, although much of it appears to be inflated by overseas interest.
  • Reviews are mostly solid with a 72 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

CONS:

  • The property and Besson himself (by name alone, anyway) aren’t particularly well known in North America compared to their significantly higher profiles in their native country of France.
  • Although Dunkirk is aiming for adult males, Valerian will need to attract at least some portion of that demographic to exceed expectations. With the success — and strong reception — of Spider-Man: HomecomingWar for the Planet of the Apes, and seemingly Dunkirk this weekend, we remain concerned about Valerian‘s release timing.
  • Although reviews stand at “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s only after 47 reviews thus far. The 6.2 average rating is lukewarm and could be indicative of divisive reactions to the film.
  • The lack of star power is another minor concern. Although that didn’t negatively affect Pacific Rim in a major way, that film opened in a less competitive market. While potentially conservative, we believe the likes of Jupiter Ascending and Ghost in the Shell serve as stronger barometers for box office performance in North America. France should be a very different story, though.

The Forecast:

Title Distributor Weekend Domestic Total through Sunday, July 23 % Change
Dunkirk Warner Bros. $55,500,000 $55,500,000 NEW
Girls Trip Universal $27,500,000 $27,500,000 NEW
War for the Planet of the Apes Fox $23,600,000 $101,830,000 -58%
Spider-Man: Homecoming Sony / Columbia $22,010,000 $250,000,000 -50%
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets STX Entertainment $17,500,000 $17,500,000 NEW
Despicable Me 3 Universal $12,000,000 $210,440,000 -38%
Baby Driver Sony / TriStar $5,660,000 $83,320,000 -35%
The Big Sick Lionsgate $5,290,000 $24,210,000 -30%
Wonder Woman Warner Bros. $4,630,000 $388,550,000 -32%
Cars 3 Disney $2,030,000 $143,750,000 -35%
Wish Upon Broad Green Pictures $2,020,000 $9,850,000 -63%

Shawn Robbins and Alex Edghill contributed to this report.

Boxoffice Staff

24 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Paul July 19, 2017

    With 50% drop each weeks, Spider-man Homecoming will finish with $290M.
    Sad for Valerian (I’m french), overseas numbers should be way better : )

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    DangerS July 19, 2017

    I’m hopping for smaller drops for “Apes” and “Homecoming”.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      wmtr July 21, 2017

      I’m also hopping 🙂

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Austin July 19, 2017

    What’s troubling me about Dunkirk right now is that tracking is placing Dunkirk at a $30-35 million weekend. Granted, tracking has mainly underestimated movies with dazzling reviews, but I’d be startled if Dunkirk actually grossed anything lower than $50 million. However, this is the last big weekend until September 22nd (unless both The Dark Tower and It perform above their modest expectations), so I’m hoping that Dunkirk holds like Wonder Woman if not better, even if it underperforms (which isn’t likely).
    Meanwhile, unless the reviews are overwhelmingly negative from here on out, Girls Trip is looking at a prospect not seen by anything like it this year: great reviews. Potentially, it could act as counterprograming against Dunkirk but because of uncertainty, I don’t think Girls Trip will earn $27 million for its opening so much as $23 million, but I guess we’ll see.
    Valerian is a no-brainer: bent on success in international markets, it’ll flop domestically with $20 million maximum unless curious moviegoers decide to check it out. Consider the unfortunate prospect of Valerian having the lowest reviews of all this weekend’s releases as well.
    Regarding holds, I think “War” may drop 57% and Spider-Man won’t be too fortunate with a 52% drop. Because of Dunkirk, I find it likely for Baby Driver to suffer a drop around 40% or higher rather than 35%. Otherwise, everything else looks fine.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      David Knowles July 20, 2017

      Spiderman Homecoming may drop even faster, word of mouth is that it isn’t really a good film.

      I think Valerian may legs as talk of it spectacular cgi scenes and special effects start to leak out.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Trent Con July 20, 2017

        Wow. Every word of your comment is completely wrong. Kudos on writing the most uninformed comment in this thread, if not this site.

        Reply
  4. Avatar
    Matt D. July 19, 2017

    1. Dunkirk- $60 M
    2. Apes- $30 M (Play out like MI5 in 2015)
    3. Girls Trip- $25 M (Also play out like Bad Moms in 2016 if it gets positive reviews)
    4. Spider-Man- $24 M
    5. Valerian- $15 M

    Reply
    • Avatar
      DangerS July 20, 2017

      I would love to see Apes making $30M this weekend, although $25M seems more realistic.

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    BDTrooper July 19, 2017

    While I’ve seen that Dunkirk preview in theaters way too many times, I haven’t seen as big a presence on the small screen, which I have for Valerian. While I’m a big fan of Nolan’s, nothing about Dunkirk stands out for me – it looks like a big, non-descript war battle film, though I’m sure it’s much more than that. Valerian, however, looks amazing – Avatar meets The Fifth Element – with incredible visuals, humor and Rihanna! It’s a must-see, while Dunkirk I’ll wait to see. So, I think Dunkirk may not do as well as predicted, while Valerian will do significantly better. At least I hope that’s how it goes.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Austin July 20, 2017

      I’m not sure if celebrity cameos are going to save a film whose genre appeals to international audiences much more than US audiences. I think that if anything, Valerian may find a small boost from curious moviegoers who aren’t just dazzled by the visuals, but are interested because the film has good (but not great) reviews. Then, it’ll drop steeply. Otherwise, besides Arrival, Sci-fi films generally flop in the US and play rather poorly nowadays.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        David Knowles July 20, 2017

        Unless it got Star Wars in the title.

        Reply
        • Avatar
          Austin July 20, 2017

          Yeah, good point. Any sci-fi movie outside of the Star Wars canon generally will flop in the US with Arrival being an exception.
          Also, here’s an update that I just found on Rotten Tomatoes: Valerian dipped below the 60% mark. Based on the downward trend of thes reviews, it may not recover. Not even Metacritc is kind to it with a 52% or below. For worse, its fate in the US is practically sealed: it will earn <$20 million and have standard but steep drops in the upcoming weeks. The only hopes of success for it will come from the offshore market, but even then, its numbers have to be equivalent to Pirates 5 considering its $180 million budget.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Javne July 20, 2017

            Not a good point, for reasons outlined above.

            Again, if a sci-fi film is good, it will do well here. If it’s awful (like Valerian), it won’t. The film has Jupiter Ascending/John Carter written all over it.

            If it flops, it’s because it’s bad. There’s no “conspiracy” or “forces working against it.” The film cost $200M BEFORE P & A costs – it needs to make $600M worldwide to make a dime. Good luck to Europa/STX.

          • Avatar
            BDTrooper July 20, 2017

            I’m with Jacen. For someone to state that sci-fi films generally flop in the U.S. other than Arrival, they’d have to have been born within the last year (and that ability to even make a statement at such a young age would be a sc-fi premise). Besides all the films Jacen mentioned from Trek to The Martian, to the Jurassic films to the Apes trilogy, there’s Nolan’s own Inception and Interstellar, which were huge hits, and Gravity, which you could say is more science fact, but still. Science fiction is actually one of the most successful genres here in the states.

        • Avatar
          Javne July 20, 2017

          Or Guardians in the title. Or Interstellar in the title. Or Prometheus in the title. Or Avatar in the title. Or Men in Black in the title. Or (the first two) Star Trek in the title. Or Apes in the title.

          Translation: Science fiction films don’t flop here – BAD science fiction films flop here. Like any other genre, foreign audiences are much more tolerant of awful filmmaking (Pirates 5, Die Hard 5, Furious 8, XXX2, Mummy, etc).

          Reply
        • Avatar
          JumanjiWells July 20, 2017

          Or Transformers… or District 9… or Pacific Rim… or Edge of tomorrow… or Divergent (yes, it’s sci-fi)… or Tron Legacy… or Elysium… all films that earned the around the same if not more than Arrival. lol Heck, even “Battle: Los Angeles” made $83M domestic/ $211M global against a $70M budget.

          Science fiction doesn’t “bomb” here – it’s just that there aren’t many science fiction films made in general anymore, because they are hard to market to a broad audience. It’s important to remember the film industry is STILL an industry.

          Reply
      • Avatar
        Jacen July 20, 2017

        I have to dispute the contention of SF films flopping recently. If we accept Star Wars as sci-fi (and we should, since it’s in the sub-genre of space opera), then the following SF films have been moneymakers: the aforementioned Arrival as well as Star Wars, new Treks 1 and 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, the Martian, Fury Road, Passengers (ugh), the new Apes trilogy, Jurassic World, Ex Machina, the Hunger Games quadrilogy, Lucy… even turkeys like the 5th Wave and the Transformers (until the latest) have been moneymakers. That’s just a few. Have they been able to turn a profit in the US alone? In many cases, no, but that comes from the global shift that a lot of films have become part of: giant budgeted spectacles for more than just the US. Have there been flops? Oh yeah, especially some really big bombs: John Carter, Jupiter Ascending, maybe some others I’m forgetting.

        What does this mean for Valerian? From what I’ve read, STX has a very low investment in this, just like they did with another sci-fi: The Circle. If so, the movie doesn’t have to do much. Still, it’s too bad that the buzz on this is lukewarm at best. The film looks like an upbeat visual feast and amusing escapism. Perhaps if it had been released earlier in the summer or later into the fall… October worked well for the Martian; maybe it would have done so for Valerian (especially if it had been a summer release for most of the rest of the world and picked up some solid word of mouth before hitting the US).

        Reply
        • Avatar
          Austin July 21, 2017

          Besides The Martian, Jurassic World, the first two Hunger Games movies, and Arrival (and a few older movies), the rest needed international totals in order to break even. That’s why US totals are generally not enough to earn a profit; the movies would flop without the international markets. Even outside of sci-fi movies, there are definitely plenty of movies that needed international markets to eventually or hopefully succeed. So, yes, all the films mentioned avoided red ink because they appealed to international markets, something I forgot to mention in my previous comments.
          I also can confirm that, indeed, STX won’t take much impact from Valerian’s failures both in the US and other markets. That’s usually how it works: the production companies, rather than the distributors, take most of the impacts from a big-budget movie’s failure should that be the case. For Valerian, though, I think it needs $700 million in total earnings to break even (it is France’s most expensive film at €215 million [or $180 million] not to mention advertising costs), which is practically an uphill battle in the face of Dunkirk both in the US and international markets.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Jacen July 21, 2017

            Yeah, I read in Empire or maybe Total Film that Valerian cost something like $215mil before marketing was even included. Certainly, the money is there on the screen, but the chances of it turning a profit… 700 mil? Yeeesh, doesn’t seem likely.

  6. Avatar
    navtej singh July 20, 2017

    most sites are predicting dunkirk at 35-40m and valerian at 20-25
    55 for dunkirk seems high, i think it will perform like mad max fury road 44m opening and about 150m total

    Reply
    • Avatar
      DangerS July 20, 2017

      Dunkirk is performing very strong on social media and it’s already called by many the best movie of the year so a $50M+ opening seems likely.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        navtej singh July 20, 2017

        i would love for it to overperform but still it’s a war movie and audience for it is limited

        Reply
  7. Avatar
    J July 20, 2017

    Dunkirk might do 45-50 million. Girls Trip will probably do 20-25 million and Valerian will do 12-15 million most likely.

    Reply
  8. Avatar
    Reece July 20, 2017

    what Dunkirk has is:
    Christopher Nolan (a familiar name)
    GLOWING reviews (97 metacritic is astonishingly high)
    IMAX tickets to boost gross
    Social media stamina

    and most important: it’s rated PG-13. That widens the audience range dramatically, so older kids, teens, adults, anyone can see this movie.

    I say around 55 million+ is what it will take in. 65 on a good weekend

    Reply

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