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Dune Exceeds Box Office Expectations In Its Opening Weekend, So Can The Sequel Get The Green Light Now, Please?

Dune fans have anticipated this past weekend for years – and in two distinct ways. Obviously the first is the actual opportunity to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune on the big screen (as intended by the filmmakers) and experience what it’s like to be taken away to the desert planet of Arrakis. The other reason has been in anxiety looking forward to the box office returns, understanding the numbers as a key influence in Warner Bros. giving the green light to a sequel. Well, now the receipts are in, and I’m excited to say that the news is very good.

Take a look at the full Top 10 chart below, and join me after for analysis!

Weekend Box Office Dune October 22-24, 2022

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

TITLEWEEKEND GROSSDOMESTIC GROSSLWTHTRS
1. Dune*$40,100,000 $40,100,000 4,125
2. Halloween Kills$14,500,000 $73,104,845 13,727
3. No Time To Die$11,886,514 $120,041,599 23,807
4. Venom: Let There Be Carnage$9,100,000 $181,829,631 33,513
5. Ron’s Gone Wrong*$7,300,000 $7,300,000 3,560
6. The Addams Family 2$4,339,247 $48,318,224 42,907
7. The Last Duel$2,100,000 $8,567,968 53,065
8. Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings$2,000,000 $220,973,832 61,600
9. The French Dispatch*$1,300,000 $1,300,000 52
10. Free Guy$258,000 $121,254,001 7380

Going into this past Friday, the expectations for Dune at the box office were set for “modest.” Prognosticators set their conservative estimates saying that the new movie would open in first place domestically, but that its ticket sales would be in the $30-35 million range. As you can see from the chart, the sci-fi epic did a nice job sprinting past that prediction and managed to make $40.1 million.

It should go without saying at this point that in a normal year it would be a stretch to be impressed by a $40.1 million opening in October by a film that had a $165 million production budget – but there are important mitigating circumstances to consider. The biggest is the fact that Dune isn’t a theatrical exclusive. Being a part of the Warner Bros. 2021 slate, it’s currently not only available to see in cinemas, but HBO Max subscribers can also watch it to their hearts content on the streaming service without paying an additional fee.

Within this context, Dune did exceptionally well, and proved itself to specifically be a theatrical draw. The film not only had the eighth biggest opening weekend of the year overall, but it had the third biggest opening weekend among all of the blockbusters that have come out with a hybrid release model. Cate Shortland’s Black Widow (which debuted simultaneously in theaters and via Premier Access on Disney+), and David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills (which was dropped on Peacock) are the only titles to have made more  – but you’ll note that also means that Denis Villeneuve’s movie did better in its first three days than any other Warner Bros. feature in 2021.

Unfortunately, we’re not totally sure of what Dune’s overall pop culture impact has been, as the other half of the release’s statistics (a.k.a. streaming numbers) are kept a mystery from the public. We can only guess that the $40.1 million debut also translated to the film having success on HBO Max, in terms of new subscribers and traffic, but for right now that’s only a guess.

As noted earlier, the biggest question that this has now led to is whether or not this means that Dune: Chapter 2 will finally get approval from Warner Bros. The movie that is now playing only adapts the first half of the first book in author Frank Herbert’s beloved series of novels, and it leaves the story in a place that demands a follow-up to feel whole. The studio has held off on committing to future plans for the franchise, but hopefully these domestic results will have a significant impact on their decision making.

Worldwide (including this past weekend’s North American ticket sales), Dune has already made $220.7 million, having opened overseas last month. That means that it is already considered the thirteenth most successful release of the year – and hopefully it will demonstrate some legs in the coming weeks as audiences experience it properly as a big screen blockbuster and not just at home on the living room television.

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides training in Dune

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

At this stage in the game it is probably best to remain cautiously optimistic, as we’ve seen some bad things happen to movies with a hybrid release model this year – and a perfect case in point is presented in this weekend’s box office chart. It’s become very commonplace this year for movies that are available on streaming to experience nose dives in ticket sales in their second weekend, and Halloween Kills is the latest victim of this phenomenon.

Similar to Black Widow, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, Michael D. Lee’s Space Jam: A New Legacy, and more the slasher film took a 71 percent dip after its excellent start in theaters last weekend. Once again this suggests that those who are most interested in seeing a movie on the big screen will go opening weekend, leaving the majority of the rest of the audience appreciating the convenience of just watching the movie at home. The horror release is still doing well (it cost only $20 million to make, and has already earned over $70 million domestically), and it may spike a bit next weekend thanks to the arrival of its titular holiday, but the box office figures are going to be depressed regardless.

A far more positive development from this weekend’s box office results can be spotted down at the very bottom of the chart. Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was given an extremely limited release this past Friday, playing in only 52 theaters nationwide, and yet it still managed to bring in an impressive $1.3 million – equating to $25,000 per location. That is a brand new record for 2021, as it exceeds the average made by Black Widow back in July (it made $19,319 per location, but also showed in 4,160 theaters). Searchlight Pictures will be putting the movie into on Friday, and it will be interesting to see how it performs after the expansion.

Speaking of this upcoming week, there is a totally seasonally appropriate collection of titles set to arrive in theaters just in time for Halloween. The duo of Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho and Scott Cooper’s Antlers will hopefully inspire plenty of chills and screams from audiences as they arrive in cinemas everywhere. How will they do against Dune in its second weekend? Be sure to return here to CinemaBlend next Sunday for the full rundown on how everything unfolds.

 

Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.