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411 Box Office Report: Dune Takes Off With $40 Million Domestic Start

October 24, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
DUNE Timothee Chalamet

Dune dominated the box office this weekend, with the ambitious sci-fi adaptation taking the #1 spot with ease. Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel grossed $40.1 million in its opening weekend to claim the top position for the weekend. That is a record for Warner Bros’ HBO Max day-and-date releases, passing the $32.2 million start of Godzilla vs. Kong in March. It’s also the best opening of Villeneuve’s career, and an overperformance for a movie that was expected to start in the $30 million range coming into the weekend.

On the surface, Dune’s start doesn’t necessarily look like anything for Warner Bros. to crow about. After all, this is an expensive production that cost $165 million to produce, plus marketing – and that marketing includes several release date delays, which pushed the costs higher. It’s not hard to imagine that Warner Bros. is unhappy about this start, but that would ignore the context here. For one, Dune was never going to open at real blockbuster levels. It’s a two and a half hour film adapting a famously dense novel that favors intrigue over action. And Warner Bros. is well aware of how Villeneuve’s films perform – while he’s a respected director, neither Blade Runner 2049 or Arrival became massive hits, and the studio knew what they were getting with him.

More to the point: while domestic performance is important here, Warner Bros. is already happy with the film’s overseas performance. Dune began its international rollout a few weeks ago and has grossed $180.6 million outside the US for a $220.7 million worldwide gross so far. Those are numbers that Warner Bros. are happy with, and when you factor in the likely viewership on HBO Max, all signs are that this is a successful launch (at least by pandemic standards).

Dune came into the weekend with an enormous amount of hype, which is what helped allow it to overperform. Reviews for the film have been quite good, with an 83% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes. But more importantly, the audience reaction has been exceptional. Again, this is a film that could have very easily been a disappointment to fans, even with Villenueve focusing on the more cinematic aspects of the story. But an A- CinemaScore is great for this film, coupled with 4.5 stars and an 84% positive score through PostTrak.

That positive word of mouth showed with the day-to-day results, which remained strong throughout the weekend. That gives Warner Bros. plenty of opportunities to hope that this one might circumvent the issues that HBO Max day-and-date releases have largely had with weak box office legs. The average multiple for these films is 2.29, but the positive word of mouth suggests that Dune should at least be able to cross the $100 million mark. And to be clear, Dune is unlikely to turn a profit strictly from the box office but factoring in other revenue streams WarnerMedia will be happy here in the end, especially if the international grosses continue to climb.

Dune’s success was coupled with a very hefty fall for Halloween Kills, which dropped to #2 with $14.5 million. That’s a massive 71% drop for the Halloween sequel from its strong opening weekend. This is an entirely unsurprising result for a few reasons. For one, Halloween Kills’ strong performance last weekend was indicative of the idea that everyone who wanted to see it on the big screen did so in the first weekend, rather than successive efforts. Couple that with the idea that the Peacock day-and-date release means that if you weren’t dying to see it in the first frame, you have the opportunity to see it at home. And finally, Kills has been a very polarizing film, which often leads to hefty drops.

To be fair, even with that drop Halloween Kills is certainly not hurting. The slasher sequel is now at $73.1 million domestically and $90.9 million worldwide against a production budget of just $20 million (plus marketing). It’s still on par for a $100 million domestic final, something Universal and Blumhouse will be quite happy about.

No Time to Die eased 50% in its third weekend with $11.9 million. The 007 film is now at $120 million domestically, a perfectly acceptable result, and a very solid $525.7 million worldwide. The film was expensive as hell with a $250 million production budget and heavy marketing costs, but with the film continuing to soar it should be able to hit the black. Domestically it seems to be on course for a $150 million total.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage was down 45% in its fourth weekend, raking in another $9.1 million. The Sony Marvel film is up to $181.8 million domestically and $352.4 million worldwide, both numbers that the studio is very happy with considering the $100 million budget plus P&A costs. The sequel staying on course for $200 million and perhaps even more in the US.

Animated family comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong opened at #5, taking in $7.3 million. That’s right around the result that most expected for this 20th Century Studios film, which is not a good thing. This movie flew way under the radar despite strong reviews (81% on Rotten Tomatoes) and positive word of mouth (A CinemaScore).

Ron’s Gone Wrong is a classic example of a film that got tanked in part due to 20th Century Studios’ move under Disney’s auspice. Those kinds of acquisitions never go well for films in production, and there is a graveyard full of Fox holdover films that fell flat (if they fell at all): The New Mutants, The Empty Man and last weekend’s The Last Duel among them. There’s no word on the budget for this one, but there’s little chance of it turning a profit with a likely $25 million ceiling.

Addams Family 2, on the other hand, continued its solid performance with a 39% fall in its fourth weekend to $4.3 million. The animated family comedy has tallied up $48.3 million domestically and $71.3 million to date, decent numbers for a film that was probably budgeted in a similar range to the first film’s $24 million. The film should close out at around $58 million to $60 million domestically.

The Last Duel followed up its ugly start with a rough drop, falling 56% in its second weekend to $2.1 million. That’s all bad news for a film that cost around $100 million to make. Needless to say, this is a financial disaster, with $8.6 million domestic total and $12.7 million worldwide. It won’t likely make it beyond $15 million in the US.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was down 40% in its eighth weekend with $2 million. The MCU film has now grossed $221 million domestically and $416.5 million worldwide. It is on par for around an ending gross of $230 million domestically and is a major hit for Marvel against a $150 million production budget.

Wes Anderson’s latest film The French Dispatch began very well in an extremely limited release, opening at #9 with $1.3 million. Sure, that doesn’t seem like much, but keep in mind that this was in a total of just 52 theaters. The French Dispatch represents one of the better arthouse releases of the pandemic, certainly from a per-screen perspective, and that’s thanks in part to Anderson’s reputation and positive buzz (74% on Rotten Tomatoes). The film’s prospects depend on how Searchlight expands this one, but it’s a good start for the movie.

The rare Fathom Event to hit the top 10, Met Opera: Fire Shut Up in My Bones came in at #10 with $610,000. There’s not a lot of information on this screening, but it’s a great result for a Fathom event.

Next weekend should see Dune continue to reign, as the only new releases are mid-level horror films. Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho is targeting around $8 million to $10 million, while Scott Cooper’s Antlers is aiming at a mid-single digits start.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Dune – $40.1 million ($40.1 million total)
2. Halloween Kills – $14.5 million ($73.1 million total)
3. No Time to Die – $11.9 million ($120 million total)
4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage – $9.1 million ($181.8 million total)
5. Ron’s Gone Wrong – $7.3 million ($7.3 million total)
6. The Addams Family 2 – $4.3 million ($48.3 million total)
7. The Last Duel – $2.1 million ($8.6 million total)
8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – $2 million ($221 million total)
9. The French Dispatch – $1.3 million ($1.3 million total)
10. Met Opera: Fire Shut Up in My Bones – $610,000 ($610,000 total)