Why Villeneuve's Dune Is Already Beating Blade Runner 2049's Box Office

Dune is already performing better at the box office than Denis Villeneuve's previous sci-fi epic Blade Runner 2049. The highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert's seminal science-fiction novel has quickly become one of the most hyped movies of the past few years, and early reactions seem to confirm that the film will deliver on the grand scope, epic scale, and visual grandiosity that the source material deserves. This has placed Dune on the path to easily surpass the box office earnings of Villeneuve's Blade Runner sequel, which struggled to find an audience despite being regarded as a genre masterpiece by many critics.

Over the past decade, Denis Villeneuve has rapidly established himself as a visionary director capable of executing highly detailed, visually epic films that fuse new ideas with classic concepts. Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 was such a film, and despite being saddled with the responsibility of crafting a worthy sequel to one of the most legendary sci-fi films of all time, Villeneuve rose to the occasion and created a movie that did the impossible by equaling (or, according to some critics, surpassing) the original. Unfortunately, the film failed to make its money back at the box office, and was regarded as a financial misfire.

Related: Dune Story & World Explained: Characters, Spice & Sandworms

Thankfully, things seem to be going in a better, more positive direction for Dune. Not only is the film tracking for a bigger box office take than Blade Runner 2049, but early buzz and strong marketing have also pushed the movie into the realm of the "event film," something that Blade Runner 2049 was never able to claim. Here's a look at why Dune's success over Blade Runner is all but assured, and how certain factors are contributing to the different financial receptions for both films.

Despite still being a month away from its October 22 North American release date, Dune has already had early screenings or opened outright in theaters all over the world. The film is currently playing to strong attendance numbers in 24 markets, and crushing pandemic-era records in 10 of them. Currently, the film is sitting at $36.8 million at the international box office, which is a strong start beyond Warner Bothers' initial expectations. Back in 2017, Blade Runner 2049 opened internationally to only $50.2M, which was well below studio expectations. Even when combined with the film's $32 million North American opening, the film was unable to earn $100 million in its first weekend. While Villeneuve's Dune adaptation still has yet to match these numbers, it's currently on track to topple them, a feat made all the more impressive by the current uncertainty regarding theaters and the cinema experience as a whole.

One of the key factors in Dune's success over Blade Runner 2049 is the fact that both Denis Villeneuve and Warner Brothers have learned from past mistakes regarding the production and promotion of both films. When Blade Runner 2049 failed at the box office, many industry insiders cited the film's runtime as a key reason why audiences didn't bite. Coming in at 163 minutes, the film's nearly three-hour runtime likely scared away many members of the general audience. Conversely, Dune has a shorter runtime of only 155 minutes and, while the difference isn't huge, it may compel more viewers to give the film a chance. With the MPAA awarding the film a PG-13 rating as opposed to Blade Runner 2049's more restrictive R rating, Dune will now also have a larger potential audience than Villeneuve's last film.

Related: Dune: Why Paul Atreides' Eyes Turn Blue In The Trailer

Another factor in Dune's success has been its marketing. Warner Brothers has spared no expense with their promotions for the film, inundating the internet with trailers, ads, and posters. The marketing has largely focused on the grand scope of the film, positioning it as a once-in-a-lifetime event and a filmmaking game changer that no viewer will want to miss. Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 had none of this marketing push, with its paltry promotional campaign simply relying on nostalgia for the first film to drive ticket sales.

While the initial numbers are looking good, the ultimate question still remains: will Dune earn more than Blade Runner 2049 by the time the film's theatrical run has come to a close? The number Dune will have to beat is $260.5M worldwide, which is what the Blade Runner sequel took home after its theatrical engagement. This might seem like an easy number to beat, especially given Dune's early success, but surpassing Blade Runner 2049 could be a harder feat than many realize. With many theaters around the world closed or playing to smaller audiences, Dune lacks the advantages of a pre-pandemic release. The film will also be debuting on HBO Max in the United States, which will likely cut into its box office earnings. In the end, beating Blade Runner's box office will require a combination of factors, most of them involving marketing and word of mouth; if Warner Brothers can continue to sell the film as a theatrical experience that will be best enjoyed in a theater (especially lucrative IMAX theaters), then the film could rocket far beyond $260.5 million and put Blade Runner's numbers to shame.

With a "new normal" currently dictating how box office numbers are interpreted, calculating the amount that Dune will reasonably need to make in order to be called a success is tricky. The easiest place to start is with the film's budget, which is estimated to be around $165 million. With the additional funds for theater screenings, marketing, and merchandising taken into account, it's fair to estimate that this latest adaptation of Dune will need to earn anywhere from $330 million to $350 million to break even, and likely somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million to $500 million to make a substantial profit. As high as these numbers might seem for a pandemic-era release, attaining this level of success is more than possible. Even with HBO Max cutting into its potential earnings, Dune is already on track to break pandemic records and bring more people back to the theater than any 2021 film so far. Back in March, Godzilla vs. Kong proved that audiences were willing to forgo the at-home streaming experience for the cinematic experience, and the film made nearly half a billion dollars at the global box office. Since then, blockbuster films have been gradually growing in financial success, and if the marketing, promotion, and early buzz for Dune do their job, the film could become the biggest cinematic success story of the year.

Next: Dune's Key Planets Explained: What Arrakis & Caladan Are



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