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Alex Garland’s ‘Civil War’ Tracking for Terrific $20M-Plus Opening

Can writer-director Alex Garland’s Civil War make box office history for A24 in its opening weekend?

The dystopian action movie came on tracking Thursday morning, three weeks ahead of its debut in theaters across the U.S. One leading service shows the much buzzed-about movie starting off with a strong $21 million thanks to interest among younger males, and even among younger females. That’s ahead of the $13.6 million opening of A24’s horror pic Hereditary in 2018, which to date is the top start for the indie studio and distributor. (The tracking service’s full range is $18 million to $24 million for Civil War.)

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A24 is being more conservative in suggesting $15 million to $20 million. At least one other tracking service agrees that it could come in closer to $15 million.

Civil War is a big swing for A24 as it tries to produce bigger movies. With a budget of $50 million, it is the most expensive title to date for the company.

A24 and writer-director Garland staged the movie’s world premiere March 14 at the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival, an ideal venue to take the audience’s temperature since many of the attendees are younger adults, the film’s target demo. (Many of the early reactions were raves.)

Set in a near-future dystopia, the story follows a wartime photojournalist (Kirsten Dunst) and her colleagues as they make their way across a hostile and divided United States of America that has been torn apart under the authoritarian rule of a three-term president (Nick Offerman). Yet the film avoids typical red state/blue state divisions, and the politics behind the conflict are generally left unexplained, other than to say that one of the president’s first first actions was to disband the FBI in an apparent nod to former President Donald Trump, who has called to “defund” the Bureau.

Cailee Spaeny, Jesse Plemons and Wagner Moura also star.

Civil War has raised eyebrows for its timing, as it comes amid a contentious election year in which President Biden and former President Trump are once again the leading candidates for their respective parties while Trump seeks to return to the White House.

Breaking his silence on the movie at a SXSW panel following the film’s premiere, Garland said it made sense to release Civil War now.

“When I worked on Ex Machina, [which was] about AI, people sometimes use the word ‘prescient’ or ‘predictive’ [to describe the film] and I always feel slightly embarrassed when people say that because at the time I wrote it, there was [already] a huge debate happening about it,” Garland said when asked about the film’s timing. “I think all of the topics in in [Civil War] have been a part of a huge public debate for years and years. These debates have been growing and growing in volume and awareness, but none of that is secret or unknown to almost anybody. I thought that everybody understands these terms and, at that point, I just felt compelled to write about it.”

Civil War is expected do good business overseas. Entertainment Film Distributors has the film in the U.K., for example.

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