Lest anyone—like, say, director Denis Villeneuve— worry that WarnerMedia doesn’t really, truly want you to watch Dune on HBO Max this weekend, the distributor has now made it clear that you’ll not only be able to see Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel online this weekend, but see it early. This is per The Verge, which reports that Warner has issued an official statement on when Dune will be arriving on the streaming service’s ad-free tier: 5 p.m. Central on Thursday, October 21.
That’s very early, an interesting decision in light of the fact that Dune is currently expected to do pretty damn well at the weekend box office. Deadline reports that Warner and Legendary are potentially eyeing a global weekend that hits somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million for the sci-fi opus. (Meanwhile, the movie, which released in countries like Germany and France last month, has already made $129.3 million planet-wide.) That’s pretty good for post-COVID standards; consistent, at least, with recent grading-on-a-curve hits like Shang-Chi, Venom 2, and No Time To Die.
Villeneuve has been grumbling from the start about Warner Media’s willingness to (ostensibly) sacrifice his film’s box office performance in favor of driving new subscribers to its streaming service—an accusation also at the crux of the now-settled Disney/Scarlett Johansson suit. And deciding to make the film available for a breezy Thursday night viewing certainly lends at least a little credence to that argument; watching Dune the second it goes live on the company’s servers tomorrow evening might not be the most optimal way to view a film that was shot for theaters and IMAX screens. But it does sound dang convenient.
All of this is made more precarious, of course, by the odd dilemma that Villeneuve and his film have found themselves in. Even the director admits that Dune is only half or so of the story told in Herbert’s original novel; Legendary and Warner Media are clearly waiting to see how this thing lands before they start shelling out more money for bigger and bigger buckets of sand. This week’s opening weekend—which also encompasses China, plus several other major markets—is going to make-or-break not just the film, but the franchise.
Meanwhile, you can read our full review of Dune here. In his review of the film, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes that,
There is some craftsmanship here, too, that is hard not to admire—for instance, the way Villeneuve manages to balance a large, effects-heavy battle scene (which he directs with aplomb) with simultaneous intrigue inside the Atreides compound by making the interior sets big and cavernous. This gift for visual dimension is key, because what Dune offers, despite its often monochromatic futurism, is a kind of entertainment that was a far older Hollywood’s stock-in-trade: that of stars and titanic spectacle. In an odd way, the movie feels like an update of a Cinemascope epic, with impressive vistas, an overall sense of exotic grandeur, and a deliberate pace.