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Weekend Box Office: ‘Dune’ Plunges 62% As It Nears $300 Million Worldwide

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at January 1, 1970

Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Dune earned another $15.5 million in its second weekend, dropping a “Not great, Bob” 62% and bringing its ten-day total to $69.4 million. Comparatively, Blade Runner 2049 earned $15.5 million in weekend two, dropping “just” 52% from a $32 million domestic debut in October 2017. Since it’s losing many/most of its IMAX, Dolby and related PLF screens next weekend (it has earned $17 million in IMAX alone) thanks to Eternals, along with having to have the latest (and not dissimilar) MCU epic, it really needed a better hold in weekend two. That it dropped like this sans any real competition is not encouraging.

Warner Bros. (with free help from the fandom and folks interesting in arguing that Dune is a domestic success) is selling Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune as a winner despite a likely performance “worse” than, for example, Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($110 million/$48 million in 2019). This is closer to the 64% drop for Power Rangers, which opened with $40 million in March 2017 only to gross $14.4 million and clock out at $85 million domestic. Despite strong Cinemascore grades (including an A+ from kids) and mixed-negative reviews that bent toward “Better than I expected,” that March 2017 one-and-done franchise starter couldn’t convince that unconverted to give it a shot.

Online coverage and social media excitement would suggest that Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet, is preaching to the unconverted, but the raw domestic grosses suggest a domestic cume closer to Power Rangers or even Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 ($92 million, which was considered a whiff with $259 million global on a $155 million budget) than even a Batman & Robin-ish ($107 million from a $43 million debut and 64% second-weekend drop in 1997) finish. Now Dune is performing better overseas. It sank like a stone in China (dropping 78% for a $5 million weekend and $33 million ten-day cume) but held well in South Korea (-13% for a $6 million 11-day total).

In terms of spin and perception, opening the film overseas in advance of its debuts in North America and China arguably turned out to be the right call. That it’s not excelling in two of its more important territories is almost being treated as beside the point. Yes, Legendary and Warner Bros. announced a sequel on Tuesday, but announcing a sequel to create the impression of success is par for the course (see also: Star Trek 4, Wonder Woman 3 and Cruella 2). Sure, I’m guessing Dune part Two will still happen, but a likely over/under $375 million global finish on a $165 million budget doesn’t make Dune a straight-up theatrical hit.

With $292 million worldwide, it has now passed Pacific Rim: Uprising. Pacific Rim was perceived as a hit despite earning $411 million (including $113 million in China) on a $190 million budget, again with the online fandoms over-representing mainstream interest in the monsters versus robots fantasy. Now to be fair, it’s entirely likely that Dune part Two will be bigger than Dune part One even aside from the presumed lack of HBO Max availability and Covid variables in two years. As we saw with Twilight, Avengers, Harry Potter and (obviously) The Lord of the Rings, when audiences like “part one of ?” they show up for “part two of ?” But how much bigger?

Will it be a true breakout sequel akin to Captain America ($371 million for The First Avenger and then $710 million for The Winter Soldier) or closer in spirit to Star Trek Into Darkness ($467 million on a $190 million budget versus $385 million on a $150 million budget for Star Trek)? I’m leaning toward the latter for now, but I’ll happily eat crow if it takes a Planet of the Apes-level jump ($481 million for Rise and then $710 million for Dawn) Of course, if the only goal is to get a complete adaptation of Frank Herbert’s first Dune book, that’s almost beside the point.


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