The sleepers awakened and headed to the movies.
Sci-fi epic Dune pulled in $40 million domestically in its opening weekend, with overseas box office pushing the worldwide total past $200 million.
The Denis Villeneuve film also debuted Thursday on HBO Max, which likely took a sandworm-sized bite out of ticket sales.
Villeneuve wasn't shy about his desire for audiences to see the Warner Bros.' tentpole in theaters despite the ongoing pandemic, and many fans tracked down the biggest screen they could, with $9 million — almost a quarter of the weekend earnings — coming from Imax screens.
The adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, starring Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, and Zendaya, screened at 4,125 North American theaters this weekend. Dune's earnings mark the best domestic opening for any of the films that simultaneously aired on HBO Max, topping previous champ Godzilla vs. Kong's $31.7 million.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
Dune also came out on top of Villeneuve's previous box office champ Blade Runner 2049, which pulled in $32.8 million in 2017. Its runtime of 155 minutes meant it had fewer daily screenings than shorter films.
Villeneuve set out to create a film that hewed closer to the "spirit of the book," and the result only covers the first part of the novel that introduced readers to Herbert's desert planet populated by scheming political rivals—and voracious sandworms.
Dune had a $165 million production budget before marketing, and the question remains whether it will earn enough for the studio to greenlight a second installment to conclude the tale.
WarnerMedia Chair Ann Sarnoff told Variety this week, "The story in itself sets up for a sequel. The production is so amazing and the storytelling is so compelling that it's not going to be judged on box office alone."
Dune premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 3 and has earned glowing reviews.