July 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

July 6, 2017

Wait 'til they get a load of me.

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3. Dunkirk (July 21st)
Film buffs in particular are anticipating the latest from Christopher Nolan, who has quickly risen as one of the most revered (and commercially successful) new filmmakers of the 21st century. Most recently he was behind The Dark Knight Rises, which I thought was the best of the Batman films (sue me), and Interstellar, which played like a less mainstream and accessible version of Contact, and which also contained considerable brilliance among its two hour and forty nine minute running time (or at least that was the point I stopped watching it).

Having delivered some A-class fiction entertainment, Nolan here tackles a project that perhaps has some personal meaning for him. The 1940 battle of Dunkirk and the subsequent retreat is one of the most important early events of World War II, when British and other Allied soldiers were evacuated from a battle that had turned against them, allowing them to regroup their forces. This production is high class, well shot, and presumably big budget, with trailers that have almost uniformly consisted less of unconnected moments and more of a relatively linear series of scenes, depicting preparation, an impending attack, and alarm as the action is about to begin.

Dunkirk must by definition have a large ensemble cast, which is led by rising actors of the British Isles (Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, and Barry Keoghan, chiefly), and surrounded on all sides by veterans like Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance, along with musician Harry Styles, making his acting debut in what doesn't look like a showy role. The film comes in at a lean 1:46, short not only for Nolan (it's his littlest film since his first), but also for your average 2017-era blockbuster, where every tentpole aims to ape the Transformers' fearsome running time (but without lots of FX shots of angry gun-toting robots to legitimately justify such length).

Dunkirk is a battle perhaps unknown to many American audiences, but maybe it helps to open the film more or less on the same weekend as the one claimed by one of the definitive World War II films, Saving Private Ryan, in 1998. The advertising promises lean, taut, action, depicting what look like mere hours in a momentous day. As an all-male cast in a hard-line British military setting, the film may have limits at the American box office, though assuming it is well reviewed (and there's no reason to assume otherwise), there's enough here for a decent hit in the U.S.; even if, as a straight-forward war thriller with no outlandish supernatural elements, it'll stand unique among this summer's top grossers. For a film like this, that's a win.

Opening weekend: $53 million / Total gross: $145 million


4. The Emoji Movie (July 28th)
Through lengthy research on Google, I learned that the emojis are vile, loathsome, and occasionally adorable creatures that live inside of small technological devices, emerging only with the purpose of expressing a precise and astute emotional reaction in appropriate situations (or to shrink small children and then snatch them away forever, if the occasion calls for that). Now the emojis, which first appeared in Japan in the late 1990s, are the stars of their own film, one presumably expected to deliver the fourth token $100 million grosser on July's fourth weekend. Most likely, they will succeed. It's still the rare CGI animation that fails to reach that milestone, and The Emoji Movie contains nothing about it that would nullify such a foregone conclusion.

A lot of the media seem to be excited about Patrick Stewart's casting as the Poop emoji. Whatever amuses them on tough days. The rest of the characters will be familiar to those few who have ever used iPhones or Androids or wherever these vicious little critters can be found.

In the film, the emojis will go on a bright and dangerous adventure, whereby the lead character (T. J. Miller) will learn an important life lesson, one that will be completely useless to him since, he is, at the end of the day, an emoji. Pop cultural references will be made, cleverly, and a few of the bigger movie buffs in the audience will surely take a mild and irrelevant pleasure at picking out the famous voice actors who echo on the screen.

With the advent of CGI, animation is a genre that has become a box office force like it never had been before. Previously, a summer season might include two notable animated films at maximum; now it can be three times that, and no one else complains.

It's gotten to the point that when given the task of forecasting a CGI animated blockbuster, I never much know what to write except that the film under discussion has a cute idea, will receive great reviews, and, subsequent to that, will make a lot of money. Usually, I am right. Sometimes, I'm only partially right (for example, the recent Captain Underpants had a cute idea and, justifiably, great reviews, but made only a semi-lot of money).

The success of this film, though, is much more clear-cut. Sequels will be made ("That comes later", as Bane said), and the cycle will remain unbroken.

Opening weekend: $49 million / Total gross: $140 million

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