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HIGHER CULTURE: I Didn't Watch 'Dune' This Weekend

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

This weekend, most anyone heading to movie theaters will likely see the new, feature-length version of “Dune.” That assumption is based on early returns (a whopping $5.1 million) for director Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy film during preview showings in select cities in the U.S. and Canada on Thursday evening, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Variety reported that the three-day weekend projection is expected to be massive:

The film will unspool across 4,100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada on Friday and is projected to generate $30 million to $40 million in its first three days of release.

One reason I was drawn to see “Dune” was the fact that director Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” (2016) film was so affecting and sharp, in all the right places. It seemed to bring emotion into the cold heart of what could have just been about wires and machines. But, there’s something so satisfying about going against the grain. I chose not to go see “Dune” this week for a couple reasons. And I think they’re compelling reasons for other people to sit it out, too.

Firstly, I wasn’t all that keen on the original, 1984 film (even with then-Police frontman Sting in the cast). It was just too weird for my youthful sensibilities — which was something I came to appreciate about David Lynch later. Secondly, ‘opening weekend’ necessarily means crowds of people — which aren’t really my thing. Plus, the industry charges a premium ticket price for movies like this, especially on a Friday night. If I end up seeing it later, I’m willing to catch it on a discount day or at a matinee rate.

And lastly, I wasn’t sure I knew the original film/book well enough to tell whether it was worth seeing to anyone who had an inclination to go see it right away. You might not realize this, but the biggest group (demographic) to return to theaters post-pandemic, so far, is the prime demographic for “Dune” — as Variety wrote recently about why a film like “Halloween Kills” did boffo box office last weekend and the Matt Damon/Ben Affeck-scripted historical drama, “The Last Duel,” did not. The reason: “Younger men.”

More than half of the audience for “The Last Duel” was comprised of ticket buyers over the age of 35. In contrast, just 27% of the audience for “Halloween Kills” hailed from that demographic. The bulk of the horror film’s opening weekend crowds were younger men, who have shown the greatest willingness to see movies on the big screen in the pandemic era.

Happily, there are honest brokers out there in the conservative new media, who are kind enough to wave away would-be suckers like me, who were almost convinced by the casting of Adam Driver as a lead to go see “The Last Duel.” He was fantastic in Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” a subtle movie almost no one outside the critics saw in 2016. I was willing to give him a second chance, on the strength of that performance alone — despite the misfire of the 2019 indie “A Marriage Story” (which I couldn’t get all the way through watching).

I opted to see “No Time To Die,” which came out last week, instead. You can read my review here.

While watching the coming attractions before the movie, I realized I’d mixed up the historical film for another one. The prolific Driver is set to co-star, with Lady Gaga (in a delicious, Lady MacBeth-esque role, it appears), in the upcoming “House of Gucci” movie.

 

I have a confession to make. There was one more reason to see “Dune.” I could have caught the film as early as 6 p.m. on Thursday (Phoenix happens to be a ‘select city’). But while that could lend itself to a feeling of smug superiority, like being first in line to head out to recess on the playground, it’s not a good enough reason to see a movie.