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Dune Opens To $40.1M, Highest Debut Of The Year For WB, And Career Best For Denis Villeneuve

Dune has exceeded expectations heading into the weekend. The movie had been pegged for a debut in the low $30M range coming into the weekend, and even after it had a really solid $17.5M opening day, many expected it to land around $30-$35M. The worry for the film was that it would be very front loaded, as all the HBO Max simultaneous releases have been (some much more so than others). We also knew fans of the science fiction franchise and film lovers would charge out to support the film right away.

The pre-sales coming into the weekend were also mostly for the opening day, yet Saturday ended up with a nice $13.9M, paving the way for a $40.1M 3-day start. That’s above the $32.75M debut of Blade Runner 2049, which was Denis Villeneuve’s best opening until now. This also tops the opening weekend of Godzilla Vs. Kong ($31.6M), to become the biggest opening from an HBO Max simultaneous release. However, that monster smack down debuted over Easter Weekend and was able to pull in $48M over a five day Wednesday to Sunday gross. So it’s not quite a 1-to-1 comparison.

This is a big win for Warner Bros. after a year long battle where their simultaneous HBO Max releases have been met with box office disaster. For example: The Suicide Squad opened with $26.2M and ended with $55.8M domestic, a massive downturn from the $133.7M debut/$325.1M finish of 2016’s Suicide Squad. Overseas the comparison is much worse, with 2016 Squad making $746.4M worldwide and The Suicide Squad ending at $167.4M globally. The Suicide Squad also cost more than 2016’s, $185M vs. $175M. No matter how you slice it, that’s awful. Another quick example is the Hugh Jackman/Rebecca Ferguson starring Reminiscence, which opened to a pitiful $1.95M and FINISHED with $3.9M domestic. Total worldwide gross is $15.8M, from a budget between $55M and $65M.

With that being said, yes, Dune is WB’s biggest success yet during the pandemic stateside. Watching Godzilla and King Kong punch each other is an easy sell, where Dune is a lore heavy, action light, politics-in-space movie. It’s a testament to the Warners marketing department that it opened this high. Now, the real question is how high the movie can go. Over $100M domestic would be more than good enough considering the simultaneous release, but so far only Godzilla Vs. Kong has made $100M while also being on HBO Max (and it limped there, finishing with $100.56M). The biggest challenge will be that HBO Max releases have all seen a huge drop in weekend two, so expect Dune to make somewhere over/under $15M next weekend. If it can level off after that, despite Eternals coming in hot, it should get to $100M.

Dune received an A- on CinemaScore and an 83% on RT from critics/91% so far from verified audiences. Blade Runner 2049 finished with $92M domestic, but Denis Villeneuve’s biggest domestic earner is actually Arrival, which finished with $100.5M from a $24M debut. I expect Dune to have legs closer to 2049 since Arrival was an original film. Dune isn’t for everyone, but most of those seeing it are really enjoying it and that word of mouth will carry to those who are on the fence.

Either way, this movie is doing just fine. It opened overseas last month (where it is a theatrical only release since HBO Max is really only a thing stateside). Worldwide Dune is now over $220M. It opened to $21.6M in China this weekend and already had ~$130M from other markets coming into the weekend. It’s on track to be the biggest Denis Villeneuve film yet, as it will pass Blade Runner 2049‘s $259.3M global total in the next week or two. Even though it costs $165M, if viewership is decent on HBO Max, it will be very easy to justify a sequel (which is really Part 2 of this story).

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