In addition to its solid debut at the domestic box office this weekend, Dune registered HBO Max viewership numbers higher than fellow Warner Bros. titles Zack Snyder’s Justice League and In the Heights. The data comes via third party analytics firm Samba TV, because HBO Max, as per industry norm, doesn’t typically reveal viewership figures. Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was given a day-and-date streaming release as a part of WB’s controversial 2021 strategy.
According to Samba TV, which provided data exclusively to Variety, Dune was watched by more than 1.9 million households from Thursday to Sunday. This is higher than the 1.8 million households that tuned into Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the 700,000 that watched Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights earlier this year. The figure is, however, lower than the 2.8 million that director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad debuted with.
Conversely to The Suicide Squad, which all but tanked at the box office, the majority of Dune’s opening weekend audience appears to have made the trip to the theaters, where the film ranked number one for all WB day-and-date debuts this year with a $40.1 million haul. WB’s marketing leading up to the film’s release pitched it as an unmissable big screen event, highlighting its sweeping scope and sprawling cast.
Here’s a rundown of opening weekend viewership for Warner Bros. titles released on HBO Max:
Mortal Kombat – 3.8 million
Godzilla vs. Kong – 3.6 million (Wednesday-Sunday)
The Suicide Squad – 2.8 million
Wonder Woman 1984 – 2.2 million
Space Jam: A New Legacy – 2.1 million
Dune – 1.9 million
Zack Snyder’s Justice League – 1.8 million
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – 1.6 million
Those Who Wish Me Dead – 1.2 million
Tom & Jerry – 1.2 million
The Many Saints of Newark – 1 million
The Little Things – 1 million
Reminiscence – 0.8 million
Malignant – 0.8 million
In the Heights – 0.7 million
Judas and the Black Messiah – 0.7 million
Samba TV’s figures are based exclusively on TV viewership through opt-in deals with cable providers, and not other devices. At least five minutes of a title must be watched for it to be counted as a view.
It should be noted that Villeneuve was among the many critics of WB’s decision to release each of its 2021 titles simultaneously on HBO Max. In an interview with Total Film, he described watching Dune at home to driving “a speedboat in your bathtub.” His fellow filmmaker Christopher Nolan was even less diplomatic when, criticizing the move in a statement to THR, he called HBO Max “the worst streaming service.” Nolan ultimately severed ties with WB and is currently working on his next film, Oppenheimer, over at Universal. This even after WB largely acquiesced to his demands and released his film Tenet exclusively in theaters.
The future of the Dune franchise, studio chair Ann Sarnoff told Variety recently, would depend not only on the film’s box office performance, but also on how well it does on streaming. Villeneuve intends to make a sequel after splitting Frank Herbert’s unwieldy source novel into half. A spinoff series, titled Dune: The Sisterhood, is also in the works. Dune has made over $220 million worldwide against a reported $165 million budget, and fans of the film would expect the studio to make an announcement about Dune: Part Two while their palates are still spicy.