Weekend Box Office Forecast: Dune and Ron’s Gone Wrong

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures ("Dune"); Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Ron's Gone Wrong")

Friday Update: Warner Bros. reports today that Dune unearthed $5.1 million from Thursday’s domestic previews, lining up with expectations entering the weekend. That figures includes $1.5 million from IMAX screenings, which accounted for 29.5 percent of the nationwide take — the highest IMAX indexing total in history, topping Dunkirk‘s 28.9 percent ($1.59 million of $5.5 million nationwide previews).

Among comparables, Dune came in 18 percent behind No Time to Die‘s pre-Friday $6.231 million earnings (although on par with the estimated $5.2 million the Bond pic earned from Thursday alone), 24 percent ahead of The Suicide Squad ($4.1 million), and 27.5 percent ahead of Blade Runner 2049 ($4.0 million).

Meanwhile, Ron’s Gone Wrong registered $240K from yesterday’s previews. That was less than half of The Addams Family 2‘s $550K earlier this month.

More updates throughout the weekend as studio confirm performances.

Thursday Report: Fans have been clamoring for a modern remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune, the influential 1965 science fiction novel, for thirty-seven years since David Lynch last attempted to bring the story to the big screen. This weekend, domestic audiences will finally be treated to Denis Villeneuve’s vision of the sprawling epic.

Arguably the most heavily marketed film from Warner Bros. this year, even outdoing their Godzilla vs. Kong rollout back in the spring, Dune is pacing for the studio’s best box office debut in North America since before the pandemic began… but it could be closer than some once expected. The sci-fi epic needs to top the monster showdown’s $31.6 million three-day weekend for such a feat. The latter’s five-day opening from a Wednesday release was $48.1 million.

Dune‘s overseas rollout (where it is only in theaters) has been largely positive, earning almost $130 million from just 24 markets since a mid-September debut. Domestic ticket sales began in robust fashion earlier this month, while social media trends have been expectedly healthy throughout the year due to such a fervent fan base. Those indicators have stabilized in recent weeks though, indicating a breakthrough to mainstream audiences could be challenging after what are expected to be front-loaded Thursday and Friday screenings.

Dune is looking strongest, to no surprise, in premium formats like IMAX. Outside of those big-screen venues, though, business has been sluggish in the pre-sale corridor. Internal tracking shows approximately 85 to 90 percent of pre-bought tickets for Dune on Thursday and Friday are for PLF auditoriums — a higher share than the 76 to 81 percent estimated for No Time to Die by the same model.

Despite some comparisons of Dune‘s advance purchase prowess to the top films of the year thus far, it’s trending more in line with No Time to Die than the likes of Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in terms of its ability to sustain or build momentum in the finals days before release.

The Bond pic notably shattered expectations during its early window of ticket sales, but pacing softened in the final days before release and walk-up business fell short of lofty expectations. Dune may yet prove to attract some of the under-35 demographic that 007 missed out on, but the question is whether or not it will be enough to prevent the kind of sharp Saturday drop-off at the box office that surprisingly struck No Time to Die (declining 22 percent from combined preview and Friday grosses.

Typically, a mainstream surge would be observable on Twitter and other social circles, but Dune has stalled on that front as well. Appeal seems largely concentrated around men, the majority of which are over 35 — lining up with where Blade Runner 2049 was trending in the days before release back in September 2017. That film bowed to $32.75 million domestically.

On the plus side, though, Dune‘s vast ensemble cast led by rising star Timothée Chalamet could be an advantage toward attracting under-35 viewers. The sub-25 demo would be an ideal catch as they drove Carnage through opening weekend.

Of course, the giant asterisk next to this film in any conversation and comparison to recent pandemic releases is its hybrid release strategy. Warner Bros. has endured a streak of box office underperformances this year due to the cannibalization of ticket sales from their dual distribution path as many consumers have learned they can simply stay at home and stream Warner films for free with their HBO Max subscription. Many of the studio film’s have catered to an older audience during this time as well.

Where Dune could differ, though, is in its nature as a movie that seems to demand being seen in a movie theaters. Very positive reviews may also play a factor in luring our some casual audiences. Although this is an IP film, it’s relatively unknown outside the uninitiated — so word of mouth will be crucial.

Previews will begin Thursday evening at 6pm, although it’s not yet confirmed how the studio will be reporting those figures and daily box office going forward. Warner Bros. has been less transparent with daily box office data since their hybrid release strategy of all 2021 films began, despite other major and independent studios resuming pre-pandemic reporting habits.

That being said, we’re currently expecting an abnormally strong Thursday evening rush for Dune that should exceed Blade Runner 2049‘s $4.0 million start four years ago and The Suicide Squad‘s $4.1 million this past August. It could come close to War for the Planet of the Apes‘ $5.0 million in July 2017. Reaching No Time to Die‘s $6.231 million pre-Friday gross isn’t entirely out of the question, although 007’s outing included an unconfirmed Wednesday preview showing of an estimated $1 million — thus, that’s probably an optimistic target.

From there, it all comes down to whether or not walk-up business takes off and how many outside the eager fan base come out to cinemas versus streaming it at home.

Also debuting this weekend is the latest Disney-inherited flick from 20th Century Studios, Ron’s Gone Wrong. The animated pic is tracking far more softly than the likes of The Addams Family 2 and PAW Patrol: The Movie, but it does have theatrical exclusivity to bank on this weekend.

As an original film with no built-in audience, Ron is catering to families with kids who feel safe enough to return to cinemas right now. There is certainly an audience in that wheelhouse as the Addams sequel and other animated pics have shown in recent months, but the target demographic — kids under 12 — remain ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Thus, we still expect this film to perform below any pre-pandemic benchmarks that forecasting models would have otherwise suggested.

A lack of fresh competition in the market (Addams will be entering its fourth frame, after all) and the Disney brand attachment could help Ron open higher than projected, but marketing has been far less penetrative than what’s typically expected from Disney-related animation films.

Early reviews are positive for Ron, so staying power could be notable in the weeks ahead, but opening forecasts are quite modest.

Last but not least, this weekend will also see the platform release of Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch at 52 locations. Arthouse and prestige fair has been hit or miss at the box office during this recovery era as the target adult audience remains cautious to return, but the trendlines have improved slightly in recent weeks thanks to mainstream fare like No Time to Die bringing back some patrons over 35.

Whether or not that movement translates to a film like Dispatch remains to be seen, especially after The Last Duel misfired in wide release despite a theatrically exclusive release last week. Anderson has a considerable fan base that could turn out, so there is possible upside for over-performance potential. Reviews stand at a respectable 79 percent positive.

Forecast Ranges

Opening Weekend Range: $35 – 45 million

Ron’s Gone Wrong
Second Weekend Range: $5 – $10 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects a 5 to 14 percent decline for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $107.2 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, October 24 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
Dune Warner Bros. Pictures $40,000,000 $40,000,000 ~4,000 NEW
Halloween Kills Universal Pictures $16,000,000 $74,800,000 3,727 -68%
No Time to Die MGM / EON / United Artists Releasing $12,600,000 $120,700,000 3,807 -47%
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Sony Pictures / Columbia $9,000,000 $182,300,000 3,513 -45%
Ron’s Gone Wrong 20th Century Studios $6,400,000 $6,400,000 3,560 NEW
The Addams Family 2 United Artists Releasing $4,900,000 $48,800,000 2,907 -31%
The Last Duel 20th Century Studios $2,600,000 $9,000,000 3,065 -45%
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Disney / Marvel Studios $2,000,000 $221,000,000 1,600 -40%
The French Dispatch Searchlight Pictures $1,000,000 $1,000,000 52 NEW
Free Guy 20th Century Studios $260,000 $121,300,000 380 -60%

All forecasts subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios. The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not confirm weekend location counts and/or intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures ("Dune"); Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Ron's Gone Wrong")
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