“Dune” was unable to surpass Chinese propaganda war movie “The Battle at Lake Changjin” to take the top spot on its China opening day Friday, coming in second with just $6.45 million (RMB41.2 million) according to Maoyan data, despite a protracted charm offensive to raise awareness about the film in the increasingly sci-fi hungry country.
As of the early hours of Saturday local time, the Maoyan platform now estimates that it will mine a total of just $30.9 million (RMB197 million) out of the world’s largest film market — down more than $4 million from its prediction midday Friday.
The result is lackluster at a time when the Chinese market is capable of delivering opening days of hundreds of millions for popular titles, and where the heavy-handed “Battle” opened to a $32 million first day late last month — more than “Dune”’s entire predicted haul.
The Timothée Chalamet-starring film nevertheless did better than the director Denis Villeneuve’s previous outings in the country. In 2017, his “Blade Runner 2049” grossed $2.52 million (RMB16.1 million) on opening day and “Arrival” grossed $3.07 million (RMB19.6 million), albeit at a time when China was home to far fewer screens. Those films ended up earning $11.7 million and $15.9 million in China overall, respectively.
“Dune” was allocated a reasonably strong 36.5% of screening sessions nationwide on day one Friday, but is currently set to occupy a lesser 29.4% of screenings on Saturday — a potential indication of faltering confidence in the picture, given that Chinese exhibitors’ programming decisions are highly dependent on early sales.
Imax estimated Friday that some 21% of the nationwide “Dune” box office came from its fleet of screens.
“The Battle at Lake Changjin,” co-directed by heavyweights Chen Kaige, Dante Lam and Tsui Hark, has grossed $808 million so far in 23 days.