We just passed the 15th anniversary of Dennis Green’s legendary rant when his Arizona Cardinals blew a big second half lead to the Chicago Bears. “They are who we thought they were,” he yelled. It’s appropriate that the new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune would be unveiled four days after that anniversary, because a similar proclamation could be made at its expense, though not for its quality; critics have been very favorable to it with an 83% on the Tomatometer. No, Dune was already facing an uphill battle as a science-fiction entity with a following that qualified more as cultish than broad. But as part of Warner Bros.’ 2021 hybrid release strategy with HBO Max – even if it hit one ceiling on its opening weekend – it is pretty clear that Dune is what we thought it was at the box office.
(Photo by Chiabella James/©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
Dune got off to a very promising start on Thursday night, grossing $5.1 million in previews. That was higher than last week’s Halloween Kills, co-streaming on Peacock, which began with $4.8 million (eventually opening to $49 million) and even A Quiet Place Part II, a theatrical exclusive back in May, which did a pre-weekend haul of $5 million and a weekend leading into Memorial Day with $47.5 million. Hopes were high that Dune: Part One (as it should be referred to) would find itself somewhere in the vicinity between Kills’ number and No Time To Die, which went from $6.3 million to $55.2 million two weeks ago. Denis Villeneuve’s previous update of a 1980s cult sci-fi film, Blade Runner 2049, did $4 million in previews on the way to a $32.7 million start.
That was another time, though, before the pandemic and before HBO Max. Without either, Dune: Part One likely would have indeed grossed more than the estimated $40.1 million it did this weekend. Between Thursday and Friday, it had $17.5 million in the bank. If that estimate does come down on Monday, Dune: Part One will join the only three films to be frontloaded to the tune of $17 million and not reach $40 million through the weekend – Magic Mike ($39.1 million), Fifty Shades Freed ($38.5 million), and Hannah Montana: The Movie ($32.3 million). Since it did release simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, we go back to examining the limitations that potentially affected its success at the box office. No matter the pleas from Villeneuve or critics saying that people should see it on the biggest screen possible ($9 million was made in IMAX screens alone), the couch was still an option.
(Photo by Chiabella James/©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
Godzilla vs. Kong’s $48.1 million five-day haul in March/April set what turned out to be unrealistic expectations when it opened in theaters and became available to stream — for no extra charge — on a home platform now estimated to have over 67 million subscribers. Dune can claim at least one crown for now, with the best three-day opening for a WB/HBO Max release, but its numbers from Monday-to-Thursday could lead to it falling behind GvK’s pace even before a likely high drop next weekend.
Godzilla vs. Kong had a $31.6 million opening weekend after a two-day head start. Space Jam: A New Legacy opened to $31 million about three and a half months later. The WB/HBO Max experiment also had three films perform in the 20s – The Suicide Squad ($26.2 million), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It ($24.1 million), and Mortal Kombat ($23.3 million). Back in February, Tom & Jerry opened to a strong $14.1 million at the time, and those were the highs. These were all known properties, and then In the Heights became the only other release to open over $10 million. The world is in a more comfortable place now, and if you IP it, they will come, as evidenced by this month’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage, No Time to Die, and Halloween Kills. It should be no surprise that Dune: Part One performed lower than those titles or that it will likely fail to hit $100 million at the domestic box office; every other WB/HBO Max release has also failed to reach that milestone, save for GvK, which had to leg it out 11 weeks to make it.
There are still a lot of factors to consider if we will ever get a Dune: Part Two. Maybe David Lynch can step in and fast forward the story two years like he did during the Arrakis uprising of 1984. Villeneuve’s $165 million-budgeted film has grossed another $160 million internationally to date and will probably become just the eighth studio production to gross over $300 million globally this year (and just the ninth since the pandemic began.) And if Jungle Cruise can already confidently announce a sequel despite doing only $213 million worldwide to date, maybe Part One’s true fans will get the Part Two they deserve.
(Photo by 20th Century Studios)
Theatrical exclusivity does not appear to work for every film and certainly not in the family arena. Disney’s Fox division apparently did not get the memo that kids between the ages of 5 and 11 were just given the go-ahead to get vaccinated and may not come out for a non-sequelized tale such as Ron’s Gone Wrong. Raya and the Last Dragon is the only original animated film to leg itself to over $50 million during the pandemic (and even that was available at home for a Premier Access cost.) The $6.9 million that Ron grossed this weekend is less than a million more than what Spirit Untamed did back in June ($6.1 million) to become the second lowest opening for an animated film this year. Disney/Fox’s The Last Duel dropped 58% this weekend as well to just $2 million, bringing its total to only $8.5 million.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
Last week, Halloween Kills exceeded expectations with a $49 million opening weekend; this weekend it is down 71% with $14.2 million. That brings its total to $72.8 million, the 15th best 10-day total ever in October. However, among the top 25 films in that category, Kills is only the fourth film to have a second weekend under $16 million, along with High School Musical 3, Annabelle, and Blade Runner 2049. None of those films made it to $100 million. However, they were also only between $60.9-$62.1 million after ten days. Based on its current pace, that could still be enough to get Kills between $100-105 million, which would make it just the second film to reach that milestone while simultaneously playing on a streaming service with no additional premium charge. It will have to stay above $7 million next weekend to maintain its shot, though — something the Halloween weekend could help with. Its 2018 predecessor grossed $5.54 million alone on Halloween, its 13th day of release; this year, the 31st of October will be Kills’ 17th day.
No Time To Die moved back to third place this week with $11.9 million, the third best third weekend of the year after Shang-Chi and the Venom sequel. That brings its total to $120 million after 17 days, the fifth best total of the year, keeping it ahead of the pace of A Quiet Place Part II, which was at $109.3 million, so our $160-170 million final tally continues to hold, while its international tally climbed over $500 million. That makes it just the second film of the pandemic to reach that global total after F9, which stands at $716 million. Venom: Let There Be Carnage, meanwhile, dropped to $8.8 million, bringing its total to $181.5 million and putting it on track to finish between $205-210 million.
While Ron’s Gone Wrong fell on the low side of animation this year, The Addams Family 2 is making a play to possibly become the top-grossing animated film of the pandemic. Grossing $4.3 million this weekend, its total rose to $48 million. That’s only about $2 million behind the pace of The Boss Baby: Family Business, though that film’s fourth Peacock-streaming weekend was a full million and a half behind Addams with $2.8 million. The Boss Baby sequel finished with $57.2 million and is second only to The Croods: A New Age, which grossed $58.5 million during the pandemic almost a full year ago. Finally, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch grossed $1.59 million in only 52 theaters, earning the crown of the best per-theater-average ($30,576) we have seen during the pandemic. It is the highest number we have seen since 2020’s release of Emma with Anya Taylor-Joy the weekend of February 24, which opened to $234,482 in five theaters for an average of $46,896.
(Photo by Focus Features)
Next week audiences can choose between two different kinds of horror just in time for Halloween weekend. Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller Last Night in Soho with Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy hopes to become one of the few non-universe building films to ultimately crack the $30 million barrier. Then there’s Scott Cooper’s Antlers with a more physical kind of horror starring Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons. Soho currently stands at 71% on the Tomatometer while Antlers holds at 80%.
Honsla Rakh (2021)
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]