‘Dunkirk’ Opens as Top Film, While Pricey ‘Valerian’ Flops

Updated on
  • R-rated comedy ‘Girls Trip’ tops expectations in debut
  • WWII movie about evacuation of Dunkirk seen as Oscar contender

Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk.'

Source: Warner Bros.

The World War II epic “Dunkirk,” a potential Oscar contender from director Christopher Nolan, led the domestic box office in its debut, while the costly science-fiction film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” flopped with movie fans.

“Dunkirk,” from Time Warner Inc.’s film division, opened with weekend sales of $50.5 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated in an email Sunday. The R-rated comedy “Girls Trip” made its debut with $30.4 million, topping estimates. “Valerian” took in $17 million, missing already low expectations.

Nolan, who directed Warner Bros.’ successful “Dark Knight” films, returns with a movie that some critics say should contend for the best-picture Oscar. The studio is enjoying a solid year at the box office. Sales are up 7.2 percent, according to Box Office Mojo, on the strength of “Wonder Woman” from its DC Comics franchise. Warner Bros. also is releasing “Blade Runner 2049” and “Justice League” later this year.

“Dunkirk” features Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Oscar winner Mark Rylance, and One Direction singer Harry Styles in a story about the historic rescue of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

The movie had a budget of $150 million, according to Box Office Mojo, which was predicting weekend sales of $51 million. The studio was projecting $35 million to $40 million. Critics gave “Dunkirk” 92 percent positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com.

At a time when many films are shot on digital cameras, Nolan has been a proponent for preserving film. He made “Dunkirk” largely with Imax Corp.’s 70-millimeter cameras. The movie is being shown digitally in conventional theaters, along with a few that are charging premium prices for film projectors and larger screens.

With its fifth-place opening, “Valerian” is shaping up as one of the summer’s big disappointments and a poor showing for director Luc Besson, whose previous credits include “The Fifth Element.”

The film is one of the most expensive independent movies ever, based on data from Box Office Mojo and the distributor STX Entertainment, which pegged the projected cost at $150 million even after government subsidies.

Produced by Besson’s EuropaCorp and Orange Studio, the picture was expected to open with sales of just $19.7 million, according to Hollywood Stock Exchange. Critics were split on the film, which garnered 56 percent positive reviews.

“Valerian” is set in the 28th century, where a team of special operatives is sent to safeguard the metropolis Alpha from a new menace. Dane DeHaan stars as Major Valerian and Cara Delevingne is Sergeant Laureline. Rihanna, Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke co-star.

“Girls Trip,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, opened in second place. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith star as lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. They rekindle their friendship and rediscovered their wild sides.

The studio was expecting weekend sales of more than $20 million, while analysts at BoxOfficePro.com forecast $27.5 million. “Girls Trip” has a production $19 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo. It was critically praised, with 89 percent positive reviews.

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