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Here’s Why ‘Dunkirk’ Will Likely Make $200 Million At the Domestic Box Office

The film hasn't even approached its second weekend, but all signs point toward Christopher Nolan's war movie being a genuine summer hit.

“Dunkirk”

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” (Warner Brothers) grossed $6,420,000 on Monday. That brings it to $56.9 million in four days, likely $75 million for its full first week, and over $100 million through 10 days.

A reasonable three-time multiple for its opening weekend total ($50.5 million) would bring the domestic gross ultimately to just over $150 million. But the Monday number hints at higher results. Don’t be surprised if the final number ends up in the $175 million-$200 million range. That, combined with initially positive foreign results, should bring the film to the $500 million worldwide total.

Here’s why that’s likely: The box office for Nolan’s films traditionally come with very healthy multiples, as much as 3.5 or even 4. Monday’s gross confirms that trajectory, since it represents 12.7 percent of what “Dunkirk” made over the weekend. That’s an extraordinary percentage; the only summer release that’s done better in that metric over the last three years was “Finding Dory.”

“Dunkirk”

Here’s some comparative numbers on other well-received action films with openings similar to “Dunkirk:” “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” had a 12.2 percent Monday compared to its first weekend and ended up with a 3.5 multiple. “Mad Max: Fury Road” opened in May at a slightly lower level and had a 3.4 multiple.

Nolan’s two most recent titles opened under $100 million and had multiples of four or more. “Interstellar” hit exactly four times, while “Inception” had a staggering 4.7 percent multiple.

Forrest Gump

“Forrest Gump”

And as a would-be Oscars contender, here’s the comps that represent the multiples of Best Picture winners “Gladiator” (five-times multiple), “Unforgiven (6.7), and “Forrest Gump” (7.4). Among the three, only “Gump” had a stronger first Monday — about 20 percent of the weekend total, an early sign of its massive word-of-mouth support.

Then there is the historical staying power of war films. Genre titles that focused on more-contemporary wars like “American Sniper” and “Zero Dark Thirty” had four-times multiples, both aided by awards season.

“Saving Private Ryan”

“Dunkirk” might aspire to be Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (only without losing the Best Picture Oscar). Also a late July opener, its adjusted opening gross was somewhat higher than “Dunkirk” ($58 million), and it went on to a huge seven-times multiple to make over $400 million. Nolan’s film could hold far less well and still soar ahead.

More good news: The opening figure was #8 for the summer, but second best among non-sequels (“Wonder Woman” was better) and tops among non-franchise, standalone efforts. And it topped all recent war films except “American Sniper” ($98 million adjusted its first wide weekend), including Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Next weekend and its drop will tell us much more. With “The Emoji Movie” and “Atomic Blonde” offering little competition to older or male viewers, it should fall between 20 percent-40 percent — a range that would be above average at worst. If it drops only 30 percent, $200 million is in sight.

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