Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” debuted with $40.1 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend in North America, drawing a large number of moviegoers to watch the massive sci-fi saga on the big screen even though it was also available to stream in homes.
Warner Bros. launched Legendary Entertainment produced simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. When the studio first charted this track for all of its 2021 releases due to the pandemic, how the strategy would affect “Dunes”—one of the year’s most anticipated shows—was always one of the biggest question marks. Villeneuve strongly protested the decision.
“I firmly believe that the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what anyone on Wall Street says,” Villeneuve wrote in a lengthy statement to Variety last December.
Warner Bros. continued. Keep it coming back to theatrical-exclusive releases next year. Currently, the $165 million “Dune” is the best domestic opening of any of the studio’s hybrid releases, beating out the $31.7 premiere of “Godzilla vs. Kong” in March. Expectations were between 30 and 35 million dollars for “Dunes.”
Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution at Warner Bros., said, “This has been a huge result as we get out of the pandemic. Once we get out of the pandemic, if we have a movie like this, you obviously want to go to theaters first. There is no doubt about that.”
Goldstein estimated that the film would have debuted about 20% more at the box office had it not been broadcast simultaneously. (The studio has not released streaming numbers.)
As the weekend approaches, Dune, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early September, grossed $130 million internationally. This weekend, it debuted for $21.6 million in China, where Legendary and Wanda handled distribution. In all, Dion added $47.4 million internationally for a cumulative global total of $220.7 million.
“Dune” is the second attempt on the big screen to adapt the 1965 Frank Herbert saga, after the 1984 version parodied by David Lynch. “Dune” by Villeneuve, which adapts only the first half of the book, starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya and Javier Bardem.
Legendary and Warner Bros. have not confirmed. So far a sequel to the movie “Dune”, which tells of a violent shift in power on the desert planet Arrakis, where a precious mineral called “spice” is harvested.
Moviegoers gave “Dune” an A- CinemaScore and critics (83% on Rotten Tomatoes) praised the operatic sweep and visual craft of Villeneuve. It has done particularly well on the big screens, with IMAX accounting for nearly $9 million in ticket sales.
“I think Warner’s strategy has proven that movie fans, in general, will choose to experience cinematic cinema when they are given a choice – particularly for movies like this,” said Paul DeGarabedian, senior media analyst at data firm ComScore. “This should be a very encouraging sign for theater owners. The appeal of the cinema remains whether or not a portion of the content is available in the home.”
Last week’s best movie, Universal Pictures’ horror sequel “Halloween Kills,” also performed well while airing at home, on Peacock. After debuting with $50.4 million, “Halloween Kills” has fallen sharply in its second week with $14.5 million, which is good for second place. Within two weeks, it made $73.1 million domestically.
“No Time to Die,” directed by Cary Fukunaga, James Bond, starring Daniel Craig, came in third place with $11.9 million in its third week. Worldwide, the film has grossed more than $525 million. MGM, United Artists, and Universal Pictures drew a theatrical-only version of “No Time to Die”.
The weekend’s biggest disappointment, though not unexpected, was Ron’s Wrong Gone. The lightly marketed Disney animated version, produced by 20th Century Fox before Disney acquired the studio, opened for a modest $7.3 million domestically and roughly the same internationally.
But with good reviews and a CinemaScore “A” from audiences, the film could go well in the coming weeks, with little to no family competition. “Ron Gun Rong” is about a middle school student who walks and talks with his digital device, Ron (voiced by Zach Galifinakis).
Another Chalamet movie, “The French Dispatch”, also came out strong. Released by Disney’s Searchlight Pictures, Wes Anderson released $1.3 million in 52 theaters. This gave “The French Dispatch” the best epidemic rate by theater.
Anderson’s poem to the New Yorker, which has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, opened across the country on Friday. While “The French Dispatch”—a $25 million movie with a star-studded cast that includes Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bencio del Toro, Tilda Swinton, and others—is not a small indie film, the film’s first week performance has given it a role important in the furniture industry.
“These numbers show that after a year and a half, the independent art house and theater has a superhero in Wes Anderson,” Searchlight Pictures distribution head Frank Rodriguez said in a statement.
Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday in US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final local numbers will be published on Monday.
1. “Dion” $40.1 million.
2. “Halloween Kills” $14.5 million.
3. “No Time to Die” $11.9 million.
4- “Venom: Let There Be Carage” $9.1 million.
5. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” $7.3 million.
6. “The Adams Family 2” $4.3 million.
7- “The Last Duel” $2.1 million.
8. “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” $2 million.
9. The French Dispatch, $1.3 million.
10. Free Guy, $258,000.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.