Data: ‘Dune’ Opening Weekend HBO Max Viewership Topped ‘Justice League,’ ‘In the Heights’

Data: 'Dune' Opening Weekend HBO Max
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

Warner Bros. should be pleased with the domestic streaming performance of its latest day-and-date film “Dune,” which hit U.S. theaters and HBO Max on Thursday.  

That’s suggested by TV analytics firm Samba TV, which exclusively provided data to VIP+ showing that “Dune” was viewed on HBO Max by 1.9 million U.S. households from Thursday to Sunday, a figure higher than the comparable opening weekend HBO Max viewership figures of past notable day-and-date Warner Bros. films like “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and “In the Heights,” which also debuted on Thursdays. 

The film generated $40 million in domestic box office revenue this past weekend, a total that helps “Dune” account for the biggest domestic opening weekend of Warner Bros. in 2021 to date. 

“Dune” during the Thursday-Sunday following debut on HBO Max attracted more U.S. viewers than “Godzilla vs. Kong” (1.7 million) did during the Friday-Sunday (4/2-4/4) following its debut, per Samba TV. However, “Godzilla vs. Kong” released on a Wednesday (3/31) and attracted 3.6 million U.S. viewers on HBO Max during the Wednesday-Sunday (3/31-4/4) following its debut. 

Samba TV collects viewership data through proprietary content recognition technology on opted-in smart TVs and through partnerships with cable TV providers. Samba uses its dataset to estimate household TV viewership but does not estimate viewership on devices other than TVs. Panel members must watch a title for at least five minutes to be counted as a viewer.  

The estimates by Samba are helpful because HBO Max does not regularly provide viewership metrics for its streaming titles like streaming leader Netflix does. For example, AT&T last week reported its Q3 2021 results but didn’t not discuss viewership figures for recent Warner Bros. day-and-date titles like “The Suicide Squad” and “The Many Saints of Newark” on its earnings call. 

AT&T did disclose that HBO Max counted a total of 41.7 million U.S. wholesale and retail subscribers (read VIP+’s breakdown of wholesale and retail HBO Max subs here). That figure was down from 43.5 million in Q2 following HBO’s decision to exit Amazon Channels.  

While this wholesale and retail sub estimate is not directly comparable to the paid subscriber figures that Disney+ or Netflix report, data from YouGov in July suggested that HBO Max at that time was used less commonly in the U.S. than those two services. 

But “Dune” could help provide HBO Max with the momentum it needs to close out 2021 strong. In 2022, Warner Bros. will ditch its current day-and-date strategy and instead aim to help its streamer retain cinephiles by producing 10 movies exclusively for HBO Max.  

“Dune” seemed like a film that would do well on HBO Max long before this past weekend — VIP+ highlighted “Dune” as one of its most anticipated Q4 streaming titles at the beginning of October. 

The action film starring big names like Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya has been one of the buzziest awards season titles and warranted a six-minute standing ovation after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.