Dunkirk burst onto the domestic box office this weekend with a resounding $55 million debut. Christopher Nolan’s film tells the story of several soldiers caught in the crossfire as the allied British and French armies tried desperately to retreat across the channel at the small city of Dunkirk in the far North of the Hauts-de-France region. Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy feature in the ensemble cast as soldiers, officers and simply family members living through the horror of daily German shelling and air raids along the exposed North Sea beach, and the heroic attempt to rescue them. After heavy marketing on the film’s scale as a big, sweeping spectacle, $11.57 million, more than a fifth of its domestic gross, came from Imax screens. It played to almost 50% men twenty-five and over and gathered an A- Cinemascore. Critics’ reviews are generally highly favorable, setting Dunkirk up for a strong and steady run over the coming weeks.
It moved into 63 foreign territories as well, nearly all of its scheduled markets. Much of its success came from the UK, where the name Dunkirk evokes strong memories and where the film’s director and the bulk of its cast are from. $12.4 million came from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, while it made $4.9 million in France where most of the story is set. Always reliable South Korea kicked in $10.4 million, while Australia was good for $4.7 million. With nearly all of its foreign territories having opened this weekend, the only major markets left are Brazil, China, Japan, and Italy.
Some might not have picked this frame to launch a $27 million comedy but Universal found success as the rolled out director Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls’ Trip. Jada Pinket Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish and Queen Latifah star as four childhood friends on a raucous getaway weekend to New Orleans. This rowdy comedy served as perfect counterprogramming to a big European war movie and earned a solid $30.4 million. As for the audience reaction, they gave it a resounding A+ Cinemascore, the second consecutive top ranking for Lee.
Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends for new releases this frame. STX and Europacorp’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was stillborn with just $17 million in its North American debut. An ad campaign that failed to generate the necessary fanfare for this $200 million plus film billed as a sci-fi spectacle comparable to Dunkirk in scale and with trailers showing sweeping views of exotic planets and stunning astral metropolises. Director Luc Besson made his name in the US with flamboyant sci-fi thriller The Fifth Element, a critical and commercial success that came out in 1997 and has since won a cult following. This time however audiences weren’t drawn into his universe. Valerian got a meager B- Cinemascore and has been seen unfavorably by a majority of critics. This was a big gamble for Besson’s Europacorp and it looks almost impossible for them to crawl out ahead at this point. Abroad it made $6.5 million from 16 markets, the biggest of which was Germany. It heads into much of Western Europe next week and still hasn’t had the blessing of a Chinese release approval.
Next week we’ll see something called The Emoji Movie, Atomic Blonde, and the follow-up to Al Gore’s shocking 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
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