Credit: Warner Bros.
Denis Villeneuve's “Dune” debuted with $40.1m in ticket sales in its opening weekend in North America, drawing a large number of moviegoers to see the thundering sci-fi epic on the big screen despite it also being available to stream in homes.
Warner Bros. launched the Legendary Entertainment production simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. When the studio first charted that course for all its 2021 releases due to the pandemic, how the strategy would affect “Dune” — one of the year's most anticipated spectacles — was always one of the biggest question marks. Villeneuve vehemently protested the decision.
"I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says,” Villeneuve wrote in a lengthy statement to Variety last December.
dilettante [dltnti]: n. 业余爱好者；一知半解者
Warner Bros. has continued to maintain it will return to exclusive theatrical releases next year. For now, the $165m-budgeted “Dune” marks the best domestic opening for any of the studio's hybrid releases, surpassing the $31.7m debut of “Godzilla vs. Kong" in March.
“Once we get out of the pandemic, if we have a movie like this, clearly you'd want to go into theaters first. There's no question of that.” said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros.
Goldstein estimated the film would have debuted with approximately 20% more in box office had it not also been streaming simultaneously. Coming into the weekend, “Dune,” which first premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early September, had already grossed $130m internationally. This weekend, it debuted with $21.6m in China.
"Dune" is the second big-screen attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 epic, following David Lynch's much derided 1984 version. Villeneuve's “Dune,” which adapts only the first half of the book, stars Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya and Javier Bardem. Legendary and Warner Bros. have yet to confirm a sequel to “Dune”.
Moviegoers gave “Dune” an A- Cinema Score and critics (83% on Rotten Tomatoes) have praised the operatic sweep and visual craft of Villeneuve's film. It fared particularly well on large-format screens, with IMAX accounting for about $9m in ticket sales.
"What I think Warner's strategy has proven is that movie fans, by and large, will choose the movie theater experience when given the choice — particularly for movies like this," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “This should be a very encouraging sign for theater owners. The allure of the movie theater remains whether a piece of content is available at home or not.”