Warner’s ‘Dune’ Reboot Eyeing Lofty U.S. Box Office Debut

It’s been 37 years since Universal Pictures launched a big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune — to underwhelming results. Warner Bros. Pictures’ pandemic-delayed reboot hopes to do better, hitting select domestic theaters Oct. 21 in special screenings ($5.1 million), with a North American debut happening today (Oct. 22).

Unlike the 1984 version, which generated less than $31 million in global ticket sales, director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune enters the North American having already generated nearly $130 million in revenue across 24 international markets. The movie is also already streaming free to HBO Max subscribers as part of WarnerMedia’s 2021 concurrent theatrical/streaming release strategy.

Dune brought in an estimated $5.1 million in Thursday previews, compared with $4.9 million for Halloween Kills, which raked in nearly $50 million in its debut weekend. Dune is projected to open in the $30 million to $35 million range, given its simultaneous availability on HBO Max.

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WarnerMedia pushed up the movie’s Max availability date to further jumpstart subscriptions after reporting a loss of Max subs following the service’s exit from the Amazon Channels platform that gives Prime members direct access to third-party SVOD apps.

While social media buzz and reviews surrounding Dune and its ensemble cast (Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, and Zendaya, among others) headlined by Timothée Chalamet have been positive, the fiscal question is whether the film can generate appeal among mainstream moviegoers.

Warner’s top-opening movie in 2021 has been Godzilla vs. Kong, which generated $34.1 million across four days in early April. Dune is projected to generate around $40 million through Oct. 24.

Another new weekend release, 20th Century Studios’ animated Ron’s Gone Wrong, is projected to generate north of $6 million over the weekend. Holdovers, including Universal’s Halloween Kills ($16 million), MGM/United Artists Releasing’s No Time to Die ($12 million) and Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($9 million) are all expected to do better in ticket sales.

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