Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi epic Dune is starting early rollout this weekend, looking to capitalize on momentum coming off of its star-packed world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, which was followed by an event at Paris’ Grand Rex cinema and screenings in Deauville and Toronto — all in just the past two weeks.
The Denis Villeneuve-directed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic will be playing in just 24 markets this weekend, beginning offshore rollout tomorrow. Of the majors going this session are France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Spain. Our industry sources are projecting a launch in the mid-$20M range. PLFs will play a large part; IMAX is on about 150 screens.
Pandemic era comps to consider for Dune include Black Widow, while Villeneuve’s 2017 Blade Runner 2049 is also worth noting given the film’s pedigree and history. In like-for-like markets, and at today’s rates, those films opened to $22.8M and $24.4M, respectively.
Anticipation is high for Dune in Europe — and there’s a fair bit of rain washing across the continent over the coming days which is music to distribution and exhibition’s ears. Then again, the long runtime will impact the number of showings. Because the film only hits HBO Max on October 22, in line with the domestic release, piracy may be less of a concern — at least in terms of pristine copies.
Critical reception and word of mouth were strong out of Venice where the movie received an extended standing ovation. It’s currently carrying a 87% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Arrival Oscar nominee Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune is a tale of warring families, inhospitable landscapes and giant creatures. It splits the complex tome in the middle, focusing the action in this first half on establishing the dense lore — and specifically on the young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son of a ruling house whose fate the series tracks. Billed as Part One (a Part Two is yet to be greenlit), it concludes with Zendaya’s Chani — as seen in the trailers — intoning, “This is only the beginning.”
Such is the case for the film’s rollout. Dune hits other overseas majors like Korea, the UK, Brazil and Mexico well into October, in line with domestic. While the film has been granted a certificate in China, a date is still pending.
The rollout is bifurcated for a couple of reasons. Europe is expected to be the biggest region on Dune (again, China is not yet dated) and with Warners/Legendary pulling out the stops to bring talent to Italy and France, it would have been folly to wait another several weeks to get the movie into theaters and not use that global media attention as a springboard.
This also gives it a jump on the September 29 overseas rollout of James Bond’s latest, No Time To Die. For example, Dune will hit the UK three weeks after 007.
Essentially, we’re in for a long ride at the international box office — Dune’s Middle East markets start up on September 22 with Japan and some other Asian and EMEA markets on October 15, followed by Korea, the UK, some smaller Euro markets and all of Latin America during the October 20 frame. Australia, given the state of cinema closures there, is currently dated December 2.
Villeneuve has made the rounds, encouraging moviegoers to see Dune in cinemas. At Venice, he said, “It has been dreamed, designed, and shot thinking about IMAX. When you watch this movie on the big screen, it’s almost a physical experience. We designed the movie to be as immersive as possible, and for me, the big screen is part of the language.”
Accompanying Villeneuve in Toronto were Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson who had also been in Paris along with Zendaya. Those four also were at Venice with Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård and Chen Chang.