I asked the big question up top, but these days, it matters. With Warner Bros. releasing all its 2021 titles on HBO Max and simultaneously in theaters, we've been trying to track how the numbers look as the box office tries to recover from the pandemic, which is still ongoing.
For what it's worth, I think it's pointless to make any movie into a monolith. The recovery from the pandemic is going to take years and many hit movies. But looking at Dune, we have to hope it's the first.
Dune has a $41 million U.S. opening, and as of 10/26, has done $223,211,174 worldwide.
So is the box office back?
These are great numbers, but the question everyone keeps asking is whether or not putting it online hamstrung its actual numbers. TV analytics firm Samba TV told Variety that Dune was viewed on HBO Max by 1.9 million U.S. households from Thursday to Sunday. That's pretty good when you see that superhero tentpoles like Justice League did 1.8 million and Suicide Squad did 2.8 million.
How does that translate to box office?
As critic Scott Mendelson points out, simultaneous release usually only affects the box office around 15%. And these numbers are in line with that.
That means with a supposed $46 million opening, the movie didn't necessarily do gangbusters, but it's a positive sign for the box office in general. Especially for audiences going to a movie that's truly designed to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
We've been told that Warner Bros. plans on stopping these simultaneous releases in 2022, with 10 movies exclusively made for Max coming. But I think this measurement matters, because the parent company of AT&T may take back that promise. The reason is, it's bringing eyes to their streaming platform. In fact, HBO Max, launched in May 2020, now has well over 67 million global subscribers. It'll be between 70 and 73 million subscribers by the end of 2021.
Where does this leave audiences?
Hollywood is working to figure out what's a hit while the world is figuring out how to go to the movies safely. As more and more people are vaccinated, you can hope for a comeback. But as I mentioned early, this is not a one-movie change. It's going to take a serious number of movies, well into 2022, to declare the box office is back.
Christmas will see West Side Story, The Matrix: Resurrections, and other box office-friendly titles that will certainly help. We'll see if AT&T sticks to its plans. But all we can do is track the next few weeks and hope this is the sign of a change that's coming in waves.
We'll certainly keep you updated. Let us know what you think in the comments.