July 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

July 6, 2017

Wait 'til they get a load of me.

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7. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21st)
This special effects extravaganza is based on the 1960s French comic books Valérian and Laureline, which were said to have inspired Star Wars (thanks, I guess?) and now come reaping those spoils of war not already collected by its brash offspring.

The film Valerian is led full speed ahead by stars Dane DeHaan, one of my favorite co-generationists, and Cara Delevingne, the steely and statuesque model who was enigmatic in Paper Towns (2015) and psychoschematic in the unappealing Suicide Squad (2016) (don't bother looking up "psychoschematic"; I don't know what it means, either. No one does). Here, they are a sort-of intergalactic police force who presumably use diplomacy or very big guns to resolve errant conflict, because great fist-fighters, they are not. Val and Laur are aided by Clive Owen and Rihanna, maintaining human form, and by a number of actors who were not quite so lucky (only their voices remain, attached to frightening CGI-created behemoth from the deepest reaches of space).

Action and setting are the film's main attraction, both courtesy of the film's majestic $210 million budget, and of its director, Luc Besson; a man responsible for somewhat off-kilter genre entries that usually get good reviews and perform at least admirably at the box office - for example, in ascending order of domestic financial attainment - The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997), and Lucy (2014). The success of that last film ($126 million on these shores) probably paid well for Valerian and its magnificent price tab, but Lucy was a somewhat novel idea, cleverly marketed (ten percent of your brain, and so on), and starring an established name in Ms. Scarlett.

I wish this new film well, but bright, brilliant, cities in the sky and meticulously-designed CGI beasts in recent films have not always inspired cordial box office returns. The City of a Thousand Planets should play well all over Europe, and probably in China, in addition to a couple of countries out in the great wide world where Valerian is not so easily confused with Voltron or Prince Valiant. Inside American borders, I see the film as a B-movie entertainment, and the man Valerian may yet remain an enigma to those who already love what he has inspired in the culture.

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $32 million


8. Wish Upon (July 14th)
In a positive development, Wish Upon is one of three horror films in the coming months that have concepts, titles, and posters reminiscent of the old Goosebumps books - see the upcoming Polaroid (camera that is very evil) and Happy Death Day (pig-faced murderer strikes on groundhog day). First, we get this one.

...in which we revisit the old saw about the genie who grants you a couple of wishes and then decides he simply must kill you [shrugs shoulders], executed most memorably before in 1997's Wishmaster (don't ask) and brought back to the mainstream here.

Joey King, who as a child actress appeared in everything from Ramona & Beezus to The Dark Knight Rises, stars in Wish Upon as the teenager who gets a handful of wishes and then must flee for her life from the fast-running genie with a pickaxe. I imagine a teen-aimed horror film should do well right about now, spaced out roughly a month apart from last month's genially successful 47 Meters Down, and especially in a much less crowded field, with most other potential counterprogramming scared to brave its face out of the dark. The genius idea of making a horror film aimed at teens and rating it PG-13 was uncovered in the mid 2000s, after three decades of such motion pictures block-receiving R-ratings, and even over 10 years later horror with this family-friendly MPAA rating usually does well enough.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $25 million

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