Dune grossed $26.3 million in its second weekend if overseas box office. That makes it the biggest overseas grosser of the weekend, even if its worldwide total was just under the $27.3 million global weekend of Shang-Ch. The overall drop was just 32%, with “like for like” comps running ahead of Tenet (+12%), Black Widow (+49%), Shang-Chi (+64%), Blade Runner 2049 (+73%) and Godzilla Vs. Kong (+87%). It dropped just 12% in Holland, 17% in Denmark, 22% in Finland and 23% in Germany. That gives Denis Villeneuve’s $165 million sci-fi actioner a promising $76.5 million after just under two weeks in overseas release. It’s not remotely time for Warner Bros. and Legendary to start popping the champagne or announcing a sequel, as next week sees brutal competition from Venom: Let There Be Carnage and No Time to Die. However, I may want to start scanning Trader Joe’s for some organic, grass-fed crow.
The Timothee Chalamet/Zendaya/Oscar Isaac/Rebecca Ferguson/Jason Momoa action fantasy will open in Japan on October 15 and then North America (and around 16 major overseas territories, including China) on the week of October 22. The film earned $3.1 million on 167 IMAX screens for a $18,5000 per-theater average. It dropped 29% in IMAX in Russia to become the biggest-grossing IMAX movie since the pandemic in just 11 days. Dune has earned 11%, or $8.2 million, of its total in IMAX alone. The big questions are whether A) it can maintain overseas momentum in the face of No Time to Die and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, B) domestic audiences will show up for the all-star adaptation of the first half of Frank Herbert’s trendsetting novel and C) being available on HBO Max will dilute theatrical business both due to both legal and illegal online availability. All three questions offer at-best complicated answers.
First, obviously, if Dune earns a lot more than the $167 million grossed by Blade Runner 2049 overseas (it’s already 46% there) then its domestic cume will be that much less vital. Dune will open on No Time to Die’s third weekend and Halloween Kills’ second weekend. If Halloween Kills is as frontloaded as Halloween ($159 million from a $77 million debut), it’ll almost be a non-entity by weekend two or three. That it’ll be concurrently on Peacock means it may be even more of a “for the fans” affair, which is fine since we’re talking about an over/under $15 million slasher sequel. The James Bond flick is a trickier situation. Both are 2.5-hour, mega-budget PG-13 action fantasies which will likely play to older audiences, but 007 is the trusted escapist brand. Even Spectre earned $881 million worldwide despite being… not great. Likewise Venom grossing $854 million in late 2018.
All of this is irrelevant if audiences don’t want to see Dune in theaters. Blade Runner 2049 ($92 million domestic/$252 million worldwide on a $155 million budget) had a month between itself and New Line’s It. However, the “go to the movies once a month or so” grown-ups had already opted for the buzzy R-rated fright flick which grossed $327 million domestic and $700 million worldwide from a $123 million domestic debut. If the kids flock to Venom 2 but the adults flock to No Time to Die, Dune may be the second-best choice for general audiences. My kids want to see the Venom sequel and my wife wants to see the 007 flick. I can’t pay them to see Dune with me. North America is among the last territories, so HBO Max (splitting legit viewership and fueling online piracy) won’t play as much of a role in the film’s first month of overseas business.
The week of October 22 is somewhat of a worldwide launch, so the hope is that folks who want to see it theatrically will do so even if it magically becomes available at your favorite torrent site at around 12:03 am on October 22. Optimistically speaking, China and much of the world got Godzilla Vs. Kong a week before North America did. The MonsterVerse flick legged out to $188 million on a $69 million debut. A 2.72x multiplier is pretty good for a Hollywood biggie in China, especially one available in 1080p (or 4K) online a week after dropping theatrically. I’d argue HBO Max isn’t really poaching potential theatrical viewers (save for maybe Mortal Kombat), and piracy can only do so much damage to a film that audiences want to see in a theater. And so far, Dune is being sold as something that “must” be experienced in a theater.
While No Time to Die opens in much of the world starting Wednesday and will be playing worldwide by the weekend of October 8, save for China which opens October 29 and Australia on November 11. Venom 2 opens domestically on Thursday night but opens in most of its overseas territories (save for Latvia, Mexico and Russia) on the week of October 15, which is when Sony was going to open it (after The Suicide Squad bombed) before moving it back to October 1 (after Shang-Chi soared). It’s not an exact match, but Venom 2 and Dune essentially open around the world right before or after the other on the week of October 15 (where Halloween Kills will likely be a non-factor overseas) or the week of October 22. Of note, Australia will get No Time to Die on November 11, Venom on November 25 and Dune on December 2.
Venom 2 doesn’t have a Chinese release date, but I would expect one considering Venom earned $269 million out of $854 million just in China. Of the three films, the superhero flick is the one banking on China. Dune would normally be happy to get anywhere near the $66 million earned by Tenet (let alone the $122 million earned in 2015 by Interstellar) and B) No Time to Die would likewise hope to match or exceed the $83 million earned by Spectre more so than the $181 million earned by Mission: Impossible – Fallout. As studios generally only get around 25% of the ticket sale, none of these films will be made or broken in China unless one pulls MonsterVerse-or-better box office. The spice is flowing thus far, but the real battle begins next weekend when Dune faces off against Venom and James Bond. Place your bets.