‘Dunkirk’ and ‘Valerian’ Top Weekend Box Office Picks

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Two highly anticipated big-budget films open this weekend. “Dunkirk” from Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE: TWX) Warner Bros. studio is touted for an opening weekend take of $45 million to $55 million while STX Entertainment’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” looks to bring in receipts in the low $20 million range.

“Dunkirk” had a production budget of $150 million, more than 25% below the outlay of $209 million for “Valerian.” But the weekend’s sleeper might be “Girls Trip” from Comcast Corp.’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal Studios.

“Girls Trip” had a production budget of a mere $19 million and BoxOfficeMojo estimates that the film could haul in $25 million on its first weekend and has a chance of hitting $30 million.

And while “Dunkirk” has gotten mostly rave reviews, the film about the evacuation of about 400,000 Allied soldiers trapped on a beach in France at the beginning of World War II, is taking a few lumps for its lack of both women and people of color. USA Today’s reviewer noted that “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way,” a comment that generated sharp negative reactions on conservative websites like TheBlaze and Breitbart.

But a little controversy usually never hurts at the box office and as long as the name of the movie is not spelled in French — Dunquerque — Warner Bros. probably doesn’t mind too much.

“Dunkirk,” directed by Christopher Nolan of “Inception” and Dark Knight triology fame, is a gamble for Warner Bros., which is releasing a history film during a movie season known more for escapist fare.

The motion picture might fare better in Europe than the United States because there is no American angle or American actors in the film.  The star power comes from British actors Harry Styles, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh. While the story line depicts the heroic acts of civilians rescuing beleaguered soldiers on the beach – the movie ad says “When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them” — it is a story about the rescue of soldiers from a military debacle.

Even so, Hollywood is betting the Anglophile in the American public is stirred by the story. The Dunkirk evacuation played a prominent role in the World War II-era motion picture “Mrs. Miniver” that is credited with helping to rally Americans to the side of the British.