'Dune'.

Australians waited longer than most to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune on the big screen, and it had a respectable opening last weekend.

The Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya-starrer bowed in no. 1 position to $4.8 million for Warner Bros., with a healthy per screen average of $9,198. It is the best opening weekend result for a Villeneuve film in Australia, ahead of Blade Runner 2049 by 7 per cent.

However, Dune proved to have a softer opening than other post-lockdown blockbusters No Time To Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Eternals.

Pro-rata, the opening weekend result is similar to the North American one of $US41 million, though the film opened there simultaneously on HBO Max. Worldwide, the film has now tallied $382.2 million.

IMAX Melbourne was the number one site for the sci-fi epic nationally; Dune features more than one hour of IMAX exclusive expanded 1.43:1 aspect ratio. The cinema sold more than 15,500 pre-sale tickets to the film, a record second only to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

General manager Richard Morrison tells IF many sessions are already sold out well into week two.

“We always knew Dune would be a big hit for IMAX and a film we would over-index with, but to have a result like this after yet another tumultuous year is beyond a relief,” he says.

“In terms of our box office share in the Australian market, we’re proudly the number one site nationally with a 4.35 per cent market share – a giant effort for our single screen theatre.

“The opening four-day GBO result has become our 6th best opening on record, trailing only the last Star Wars trilogy of films, Rogue One and Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, so Dune is in some esteemed pre-pandemic company.”

VIllage Cinemas programming manager Geoff Chard estimates the film will finish at around $12 million – $14 million, though questions how it will be impacted by Spider-Man: No Way Home entering the market on December 16, given the “immense” pre-sales so far.

Dune is also performing strongly for some independent cinemas, with Melbourne’s Cinema Nova ranking among the top 20 per cent of venues nationally.

“We expect to climb in the rankings in coming weeks as competition for screen space heats up in the multiplexes,” CEO Kristian Connelly tells IF.

However, not all were satisfied with the film’s performance, with Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson saying Dune‘s results were simply “passable”, despite it still being the circuit’s number one film.

‘Encanto’ (Photo: © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.)

The weekend’s other major new release, Disney animation Encanto opened in fourth position, behind Venom: Let The Be Carnage and No Time To Die, to $1.2 million from 326 screens. The film is leading the box office in the US, where it has so far grossed $US58 million after two weekends. While tracking below predictions here, the hope is it will pick up considerably into the school holidays.

Encanto opened a little softer than hoped – possibly the South American flavour didn’t work as well here as in the US (as Coco didn’t a few years ago and In the Heights earlier this year), but with kids getting off school now it may pick up over the next couple of weeks,” Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell tells IF.  

Overall the top 20 titles tallied $12.6 million, down 7 per cent on the previous weekend, according to Numero.

Venom 2 fell 62 per cent in its second weekend, with a result of $2.5 million advancing the Sony title to $10.8 million.

Universal’s No Time To Die is the highest grossing film of the year so far, now on $29.5 million after four weekends, with the most recent weekend result $1.9 million.

The Boss Baby: Family Business dropped 49 per cent in its second frame, with $515,546 moving its gross to $2.2 million.

Piece of Magic Entertainment opened Christmas with André to 139 screens to $507,609, though Chard notes this is around half of what a André Rieu Christmas special usually opens to.

Now five weeks in, Disney’s Eternals mustered just $309,206, moving to $14.5 million overall.

Tolly Movies’ Akhanda, starring Nandamuri Balakrishna, had a solid opening, with the Indian film ringing up $193,634 from 42 screens. Its screen average tied with No Time To Die at $4,610 per screen.

Studiocanal’s A Boy Called Christmas drew $173,238 in its second orbit, advancing to $775,714.

Rounding out the top 10 was Southern Star’s Indian epic Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham, which opened to $170,849 from 71 screens.

While theatrical results for The Power of the Dog have not been publicly reported, Connelly reports the film had the largest drop of all films in release at Cinema Nova due to its arrival on Netflix late last week.

“By comparison, Justin Kurzel’s Nitram – which has been available on Stan for several weeks – fell by a much more slender margin once it debuted on that streamer, perhaps revealing the deep penetration of the US streamer in Melbourne homes,” he says .

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