The Quorum

Is DUNE the next GRAVITY or the next BLADE RUNNER 2049?

Back in 2013, Warner Bros. reinvented the month of October. See, the studio was looking for a home for Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY. The film had bounced around the schedule several times until the studio decided on an early October release.

An October release? Was this a joke? October is where popcorn flicks like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, JACKASS, and COUPLES RETREAT live. Not prestigious, auteur-driven cinema. Legendary distribution guru Dan Fellman had a strategy. He gave four reasons why the first week in October was the right spot.

  1. The trailer could play in front of all of Warner’s summer films, just when the theaters have peak attendance.
  2. This was a movie that needed IMAX screens, and no other films in October would compete for that format.
  3. The fall festival circuit would give the film buzz going into release.
  4. It’s never a bad idea to be a big fish in a small pond.

GRAVITY opened the Venice Film Festival, earned rapturous reviews, and went on to be the highest-grossing October release of all time. After that, the first week in October became one of the most coveted spots on the release calendar. Films like GONE GIRL, VENOM, A STAR IS BORN, and JOKER have all opened on this weekend.

But, early October doesn’t have a perfect batting average. In particular, the sci-fi sequel BLADE RUNNER 2049 was a dud on that weekend. That film – a follow-up to an 80’s sci-fi classic – was directed by Denis Villeneuve. Guess who has another sci-fi epic opening this October? That’s right, Denis Villeneuve.

As if tempting fate again, Villeneuve taps back into the me-decade for a remake of another sci-fi epic, DUNE, one of the 80’s greatest box office misfires.

Warner Bros. released the second trailer for DUNE this week, and as expected, it is a visual delight. But the problem that short-circuited BLADE RUNNER 2049 may derail DUNE as well. And that is, there simply may not be an audience for it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a cadre of hard-core fans of both BLADE RUNNER and DUNE, but can the audience expand beyond the cult following.

We will have a better idea about that over the next 10 days. Of course, The Quorum will be watching this one closely to see if DUNE gets a lift in awareness or interest.

By the way, as noted above, this is the second trailer. The first spot was released in September of last year and it resulted in a nice bump in awareness. Bit since then, awareness has been stuck in the low 30’s. We would expect a film of this budget, star power, and pedigree to be higher. If the film is going to make its move to the upper echelons, this is the time.

Stay tuned…let’s see how the next 10 days turn out.

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