‘Dune’ continues its sandworm sized slide at the box office

Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune enjoyed its third consecutive weekend in U.S. theaters and it continued to under perform at the box office. Last weekend Dune earned only $15,413,486 averaging $3,736 per theater. This weekend it earned $7,620,000 averaging $2,148 per theater.

Dune also was shown in less theaters than it did in the last two weeks. The first two weeks into its domestic run, it appeared in 4,125 theaters. This past week it was shown on only 3,546 screens.

Villeneuve spent over $165 million making Dune. Considering the studio generally spends twice the cost of making a movie to promote it, it’s clear at this point Dune lost a lot of money for Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. Oddly enough, the studios have already given Villeneuve the green light to make part two of Dune. It will not be the movie’s sequel. It will be the continuation of the story Villeneuve began to tell in the first movie.

The title of the next Dune movie is reportedly Dune Part Two: Electric Boogaloo. Since the next movie doesn’t begin filming until July 2022, the studios have ample time to turn that green light off.

As a fan of the book, canceling the second movie would be fine with me.

I found the movie to be extremely lacking. Villeneuve made changes to Herbert’s work that were both unnecessary and problematic.

For example, gender swapping Dr. Liet Kynes, the imperial planetologist of Arrakis.

'Dune' continues its slide at the box office - Bent Corner
Imperial planetologist Dr. Liet Kynes and [SPOILER]’s father.
In the book, Kynes was written as a man. In the movie, the character was played by British actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster. I don’t think the change made the story better. To the contrary, it created problems. By making the Emperor’s planetologist assigned to the most important planet in the universe, a woman, it asks the question: is Dr. Kynes a member of the Bene Gesserit?

In the Dune universe, the Bene Gesserit are a powerful pseudo-religious organization of women who use magic-like powers gained from thousands of years of selected breeding, to influence and manipulate humanity. Lady Jessica, Paul Atreides’ mother is a member of the Bene Gesserit.

Gender-bending Dr. Kynes also created another problem: in the book he is the father of one of the story’s more important characters. I’ve got to wonder how Villeneuve will explain that in the second movie, if the second movie gets made.

Speaking of parenthood, I thought the casting of Lady Jessica with Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson made for some weird scenes with her son Paul Atreides, played by American actor Timothée Chalamet. Ferguson is younger than the character she portrays. Chalamet is older than the character he portrays. The two don’t look at all like mother and son.

According to IMDB, there’s only 13 years separating Ferguson and Chalamet. On screen, this age gap looks even smaller.

'Dune' continues its slide at the box office - Bent Corner
Just a boy and his age appropriate mom hanging out in the desert.

I thought the scene in the crashed Ornithopter where Paul is assisting his mother with putting on a stillsuit, had a weird sexual vide to it. I could have done without that.

It’s details like these that make me question how anyone can say Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is a “masterpiece.” If you’re seeking a masterpiece, read the book. Dune the novel is arguably the greatest science fiction book ever written. Dune the movie isn’t even Villeneuve’s greatest science fiction movie. That distinction belongs to the movie Arrival.

I thought Arrival was one of the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen. Arrival has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score (94%) than Dune (83%).

If you haven’t watched Dune yet, I recommend you just read the book. If you haven’t watched Arrival, I recommend you do that.

Update

Dune had another disappointing weekend at the box office. For the the weekend of Nov. 12 – 14, Dune earned $5.5 million. It was shown in 3,282 theaters earning an average $1,675 per screen. At this rate, it doesn’t look like Dune will reach blockbuster status. For a movie to reach blockbuster status, it has to earn at least $100 million domestically. Dune has earned $93 million domestically.

With each week in theaters, the share of earnings the studio makes decreases, while the share the theater increases. This is why the studio spends so much money promoting a movie before it premieres in the theater. Once it’s playing in the theater, the amount spent on promotion falls off a cliff.

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