Summer Winner: Original Summer Content

Kumail Nanjiani as "Kumail" and Zoe Kazan as "Emily" in THE BIG SICK. Photo by Sarah Shatz.

Another winner this summer was original summer content that came in the form of Baby Driver, The Big Sick, Dunkirk, and Girls Trip47 Meters Down also makes the list given how much it made at the box office against its budget.

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver opened in late June to an opening of $20.5 million.  Wright’s film used a musical soundtrack in ways that the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise may never reach.  The film debuted at SXSW in March and came very close to stopping by Chicago in May for the Chicago Critics Film Festival.  The film’s modest budget of $34 million also helps to make this film a summer winner.  Through Labor Day weekend, it’s a solid blockbuster hit with $105 million with another $102 million in foreign territories.  There’s already talk of a sequel and it would need to be the right story to make a sequel work.

The Big Sick was the best performer of the films acquired during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.  Lionsgate and Amazon Studios opened up the film in late June with a slow rollout.  Based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the Judd Apatow-produced film also stars Nanjiani.  The acting was top-notch and even in late June, Oscar talk surrounded the movie with talks of screenplay, acting and even a Best Picture nomination.  When it finally went wide in over 2,500 theaters, the film brought in $7.5 million.  Through Labor Day weekend, The Big Sick has brought in over $40 million at the box office.

For some films, the director’s name alone is enough to bring in an audience and that’s what we saw in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in late July.  Dunkirk was also the last film to open this summer north of $50 million.  Produced on a $100 million budget, the film has earned $178 million stateside through Labor Day weekend with another $280 million in foreign territories.  With Darkest Hour opening in November, it will be interesting to see how both critics and the Academy vote on the two films.  Nolan’s film doesn’t have Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famed speech to Parliament following the Dunkirk rescue spoken by Churchill.  Instead, the soldiers read the speech while traveling on the train.  The film wasn’t just a win at the box office but it was a win for those of us who want to see film the old-school way: on film rather than digital.

Opening the same day as Dunkirk was surprise hit Girls Trip.  The Universal release was produced on a budget of $19 million.  Through Labor Day weekend, it’s taken in over $111 million.  The film is a hit because it targeted an audience that is usually ignored: People of Color.  Released the same weekend as Dunkirk, it brought in $31.2 million.  At a press screening of Detroit the following week, critics were still talking about it before the film opened.  The film also gave Tiffany Haddish a breakout performance.  The comedian will be performing at Zanies in Chicago for a few nights in October.

Saved at the last minute and slated for a theatrical release, 47 Meters Down brought in $43.9 million against its $5.5 million production budget.  The film, which starred Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, opened up against R-rated comedy Rough Night but both films opened up to mixed reviews from critics.  If not for the last minute theatrical release, it would have just died a slow death with a straight-to-video release.

Logan Lucky was another original film but the Steven Soderbergh-directed film has struggled to find an audience in a sluggish August.  What a shame.

We’ll see what the rest of 2017 has to offer but these are the big winners by far.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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