Box Office: ‘Dunkirk’ Conquers Competition With $50.5M Debut; ‘Valerian’ Bombs

Warner Bros.’ ‘Dunkirk’ isn’t the only win of the weekend as Universal’s female-centric ‘Girls Trip’ breaks the R-rated comedy curse, opening to $30.4 million.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk stormed the box office with a better-than-expected $50.5 million domestic debut, the best opening in recent memory for a World War II film and a testament to the Nolan brand.

Overseas, the critically acclaimed film also impressed, earning $55.4 million from its first 46 markets and placing No. 1 everywhere for a global assault of $105.9 million. The U.K., where Nolan is from, led with $12.4 million, followed by South Korea with $10.3 million.

Still, Dunkirk will need sizeable staying power in order to recoup a net production budget of $100 million and a major marketing spend. Nolan made the movie for Warner Bros., his longtime partner and home of his blockbuster Dark Knight trilogy. Dunkirk, playing in 3,720 locations, no doubt benefited from a major push in Imax theaters, which delivered $11.7 million, or 23 percent of the total gross. Dunkirk also played in on a number of retrofitted 70mm screens.

Heading into the weekend, many box-office pundits predicted that Dunkirk would have trouble crossing $40 million, considering its subject matter. They readily admit they were wrong. In addition to strong reviews, Dunkirk earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences. It skewed heavily male (60 percent), while 76 percent of all ticket buyers were over the age of 25.

It was a bold move to open a war drama in summer, when more commercial fare is the norm, including Nolan’s two Dark Knight tentpoles. “There is something special about this late July and August playtime. We really have nothing in front of us,” says Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein. “Chris Nolan has pedigree. His audience is always anticipating his next movie. We’re proud to be part of that.”