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NEW YORK — After a decade in development and several postponements, the long-awaited Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower made its debut with an estimated $19.5 million in ticket sales, narrowly edging out the two-week leader Dunkirk.
The modest result for Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, was well shy of initial hopes for a possible franchise starter.
J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard are among the directors who previously tried to tackle King’s magnum opus, an eight-book series that melds sci-fi with horror and other genres.
But the long battle to make Dark Tower ended with poor reviews and few fireworks. Still, the movie was made for a relatively modest amount: about $60 million, or half of what many other summer movies cost.
“It was always an ambitions and bold undertaking, but it was made at the right price,” says Adrian Smith, president of domestic distribution for Sony Pictures.
By comparison, the recent Luc Besson flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which opened with $17 million, cost at least $180 million to make.
Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk slid to second with $17.6 million in its third week. It’s now made $133.6 million domestically.
Other holdovers followed, including The Emoji Movie, the animated family film starring the voices of Patrick Stewart and James Corden, which took third place with $12.4 million, and bawdy R-rated comedy Girls Trip, starring Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish, which finished fourth with $11.4 million.
But Kidnap still outperformed the week’s other new wide release, the far more anticipated Detroit. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed docudrama, starring John Boyega and Anthony Mackie, disappointed with $7.8 million and eighth place.
Detroit, the third collaboration between Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), reimagines the terror-filled events around the Algiers Motel incident during the 1967 Detroit riots.
“We wish more people had showed up this weekend but we are really, really proud of the movie,” says Erik Lomis, Annapurna Pictures’ distribution chief. “The movie got an A-minus (from audiences on) CinemaScore and the reviews have been spectacular.”
Though hard-hitting films typically are fall material, Detroit was timed to the 50th anniversary of the riots. “We believe that smart audiences actually want and will see great movies all year round,” Lomis says.
In limited release, Taylor Sheridan’s Indian reservation thriller Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, debuted with a strong per-screen average of $13,053 in four theaters. Writer/director Sheridan is the screenwriter behind the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.
Final numbers are expected Monday.
Contributing: Kim Willis
Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ makes its launch on the big screen with stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba on Aug. 4. Sony Pictures