Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (part one) opened with $41 million in its domestic debut, nabbing Warner Bros.’ biggest Fri-Sun opening weekend since Joker ($96 million) in October 2019.
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It also earned WB’s biggest pandemic-era release period, besting the $31 million Fri-Sun (of a $50 million Wed-Mon Easter frame) debut of Godzilla Vs Kong earlier this year. Among concurrent day-and-date streaming releases, it is behind only last weekend’s Halloween Kills ($49 million while on Peacock) and last July’s Black Widow ($80 million, but Disney+ subscribers had to pay an extra $30 to lease it).
I don’t know the HBO Max viewership, to the extent we will beyond Samba TV giving us an estimate tomorrow, but thus far I’d argue a $41 million debut for Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya’s Dune is a successful disappointment. Yes, that’s good… for now.
For those who haven’t been following along, a “successful disappointment” is when a movie opens to about how it would have had it underwhelmed in non-Covid times. Think Tom & Jerry opening with $14 million in February 2021.
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$41 million is just 28% more than Blade Runner 2049’s $32 million Fri-Sun debut in October 2017, despite a 40% higher Friday ($17.5 million versus $12.5 million). Under normal circumstances, a 2.29x weekend multiplier would be a perilous sign of poor post-debut legs, a figure about equal to Watchmen (which grossed just $108 million from a $55 million weekend and a $24.5 million Friday in 2009).
Even if HBO Max is a culprit (as the “got to see it in theaters” folks showed up on Friday and Saturday), that’s still not encouraging for the film’s domestic future.
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Legs are an open question, due to HBO Max and that it’s a less crowd-pleasing action fantasy compared to The Force Awakens or The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s only going to keep most of those IMAX (where it earned 22% of its opening weekend gross), Dolby, and PLF theaters for two weeks.
Legs like Godzilla ($200 million from a $93 million debut) or The Suicide Squad ($55 million/$26 million) would leave it with $86 million domestic (ironically tied with Alita: Battle Angel).
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Legs like Pacific Rim ($103 million/$37 million) or Kong: Skull Island ($168 million/$60 million) would give it $114 million (on par with Godzilla: King of the Monsters).
However, audiences did stick around for Quentin Tarantino’s long, action-lite Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ($142.5 million from a $41 million debut) in summer 2019.