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Box office hits and misses: ‘Dunkirk’ flies, ‘Valerian’ flops, and ‘Wonder Woman’ reigns

Dunkirk movie review
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Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan has a knack for putting audiences in theater seats, and that’s exactly what happened this weekend with his new World War II drama Dunkirk, which surged to the top of the box office on its opening weekend.

The Dark Knight director’s dramatic account of The Battle of Dunkirk had one of the biggest premieres of any World War II film in recent years, with an estimated $50.5 million in U.S. theaters and another $55 million internationally. The movie benefitted from a big push in IMAX and retrofitted theaters capable of projecting the film in large-format 70mm screenings, and it’s widely believed that Dunkirk and 2015’s The Hateful Eight could herald the revival of the larger 70mm film format.

Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Dunkirk also received a positive, “A-” grade from audiences on CinemaScore, and a 92-percent approval rating on review aggregator RottenTomatoes. While it has some distance to go to make back its $150 million production costs, it’s a nice start for the film that also confirms Nolan’s continuing power to attract an audience.

# Title Weekend U.S. Total Worldwide Total
1. Dunkirk $50.5M $50.5M $105.9M
2. Girls Trip $30.3M $30.3M $30.3M
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming $22M $251.7M $571.7M
4. War for the Planet of the Apes $20.4M $97.7M $174.8M
5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets $17M $17M $17M
6. Despicable Me 3 $12.7M $213.3M $727.4M
7. Baby Driver $6M $84.2M $118.6M
8. The Big Sick $5M $24.5M $24.6M
9. Wonder Woman $4.6M $389M $779.4M
10. Wish Upon $2.4M $10.5M $10.5M

Taking second place over the weekend was “R”-rated comedy Girls Trip, which managed to both exceed box-office pundits’ estimates and earn an impressively high grade from audiences. The film’s $30.3 million premiere is the biggest debut of any live-action comedy this year, and the biggest opening for an “R”-rated comedy over the last two years. On top of all that, the film — which follows a group of friends who head to New Orleans for a weekend of raunchy hijinks — received an “A+” grade from CinemaScore, giving it one of the best audience grades of the year.

That’s not too shabby for a movie that was made for less than $20 million.

On a less positive note, Luc Besson’s sci-fi space opera Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest flops with an opening weekend that only managed to bring in $17 million — good for just fifth place. The outlook wouldn’t be so grim if the film had a manageable price tag, but the passion project for the celebrated director of The Fifth Element cost nearly $210 million to make and will likely need to cross $300 million worldwide to cover its production and marketing costs.

The previous two weekends’ winners each added a modest amount to their box-office grosses so far, with Spider-Man: Homecoming increasing its worldwide total to a cool $571.7 million and War for the Planet of the Apes struggling, but still bringing its worldwide total to $174.8 million after two weeks.

Also noteworthy was the $4.6 million earned by Wonder Woman in its eighth weekend in theaters, which puts the Warner Bros. Pictures superhero movie past Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 domestically to become the highest-grossing movie of the summer in U.S. theaters. Wonder Woman currently ranks second on the year’s domestic box-office rankings behind Beauty and the Beast, which earned $504 million (compared to the $389 million raked in by Wonder Woman so far).

This upcoming weekend is a mixed bag of movies, with Charlize Theron’s brutal action film Atomic Blonde hitting theaters with a lot of buzz behind it, and the animated feature The Emoji Movie likely to draw from a very different audience pool. Indie film Brigsy Bear also arrives in theaters with some positive buzz.

Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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