Love or loathe his chronologically complicated brand of IMAX spectacle, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan is an anomaly of the modern blockbuster era. At a time when studios are investing mostly in known properties, Nolan keeps churning out ambitious standalone smashes: dreamscape heist caper Inception, decade-spanning space weepie Interstellar, and now his timeline-juggling WWII epic Dunkirk. One might once have said that a trilogy of Bat-hits paid for these expensive passion projects, but the truth is that they’ve all paid for themselves. If Nolan builds it, they will come—no matter how out of step his heady, self-contained genre experiments seem with current trends in big-budget filmmaking.
One weekend after becoming the first non-franchise movie to top the domestic box office this summer, Dunkirk repeated at no. 1 with an additional $28 million, its domestic gross sailing past its $100-million price tag. The film is doing strong business overseas, too; it opened in 17 more markets this weekend, including Germany, whose moviegoers were apparently able to forgive Nolan for reducing their ancestors to an unseen existential threat. Dunkirk is now closing in on the $250-million mark internationally. Call it a victory for adult drama in a season normally devoted only to perpetual adolescence.
To that end, it’s perhaps apropos that Nolan’s deadly serious war movie nearly got bested this weekend by the epitome of mindless juvenilia. Is it a big relief that the universally-panned The Emoji Movie couldn’t catch Dunkirk, and that it debuted with only $25 million, which is less than what Sony was estimating for its shameful idea shamelessly realized? Or when it comes to this POS featuring a literal talking POS, is no fate but total audience neglect good news? Certainly, it’s disheartening that The Emoji Movie managed to best Atomic Blonde, which opened relatively soft in fourth place with $18.5 million, despite the fact that it’s basically John Wick starring Furiosa.
In third place, Girls Trip continued to render irrelevant thinkpieces about the death of the raunchy R-rated comedy; with another $20 million, the film lost only a third of its audience in weekend two, and now looks a lot like the sleeper of the summer. The next few spots on the box-office charts were dominated by disappointments both major (Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, whose domestic total now sits around $30 million—less than 20 percent of what it cost) and relative (like the successful-but-not-hugely-successful new entries in the Spider-Man and Apes series). Jury is still out on Detroit. The latest urgent drama from the team behind The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty opened on just 30 screens, making a modest $365,000 before its wide-release expansion this Friday. A big second weekend would be more good news for grownup summer movies, even if some critics (ours included) didn’t love it.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.