According to one box office analyst, Denis Villeneuve's upcoming sci-fi epic Dune could potentially make $1 billion during its theatrical run. The film serves as an adaptation of Frank Herbert's iconic science fiction novel, mostly focusing on the first half of the book with a planned sequel to adapt to the second half. Like nearly every major release in 2020, Dune was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was delayed by almost a full year - moving from a December 2020 release to October 1st, 2021.
While all studios have apprehensions about releasing their tentpole films during the pandemic, Warner Bros. has reason to be particularly anxious about Dune's performance. The film's massive $200 million budget, while certainly a factor, isn't the only thing that went into the studio's decision to delay the movie. The first attempt at adapting Dune, directed by David Lynch and released in 1984, flopped at the box office. Given the historic difficultly that has plagued the novel's potential adaptations, it's no wonder that Warner Bros. would take all measures they deem necessary to make sure the film is a financial success.
However, perhaps things aren't looking so bad for Dune, as box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian (via The Observer) predicts that Villeneuve's adaptation could take in $1 billion worldwide box office. While Dergarabedian acknowledges the pressure that the film is facing (a sequel is mainly dependent on the first film's box office performance), he argues that the film's delay might help generate interest and build hype in the long run. He also states that the film's delay shows WB's confidence in the adaptation, as an October 2021 release would ensure more people would see the movie in theaters. Check out his full quote below:
This is a huge brand with a major filmmaker backed by a very filmmaker-centric studio. Moving release dates doesn’t show a lack of confidence in theaters. It’s the opposite. It shows that Warner Bros. has confidence both in the long game and in the property as it would rather wait for theaters to return. This is a movie with the global potential of $1 billion. I can see this becoming that kind of film with worldwide appeal in the vein of James Bond.
But, Dune still faces a lot of challenges in its box office journey. Warner Bros. isn't merely relying on Dune itself to be successful; they're trying to create a new blockbuster franchise. Another box office analyst, Jeff Bock, spoke about how the stakes are high because of Dune's massive budget and that the future of the franchise depends on its success. Bock argues that while WB wants the film to be their Star Wars, they're fighting an uphill battle considering Dune inherently lacks the mainstream appeal of the widely popular space fantasy series.
It is still far too early to predict how Dune will perform at the box office. The film's first trailer, released in September, was mostly well-received by both general audiences and fans of the book. As a filmmaker, Villeneuve's track record speaks for itself, having received critical acclaim for nearly his entire filmography. The cast is full of heavy-hitters and superstars, and the special effects look like nothing ever seen before. While the film does have the potential to be the next Lord of the Rings, it faces a steep uphill climb to reach that point. Hopefully, mainstream audiences can look past its inherent strangeness, and we'll be able to see a Dune franchise flourish in the coming years.