Fri | Apr 19, 2024

‘Dune: Part Two’ brings spice power to box office

Published:Monday | March 4, 2024 | 12:07 AM
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet, left, and Zendaya in a scene from ‘Dune: Part Two’.
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet, left, and Zendaya in a scene from ‘Dune: Part Two’.
Anya Taylor-Joy, from left, Souheila Yacoub, Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve, Austin Butler, Rebecca Ferguson, Florence Pugh and Lea Seydoux attend the premiere of ‘Dune: Part Two’ at Lincoln Center Plaza in New York.
Anya Taylor-Joy, from left, Souheila Yacoub, Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve, Austin Butler, Rebecca Ferguson, Florence Pugh and Lea Seydoux attend the premiere of ‘Dune: Part Two’ at Lincoln Center Plaza in New York.
1
2

Movie theatres were looking for a saviour and Dune: Part Two is delivering on the promise. Armed with sandworms, big screen spectacle and the star power of Timothée Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve ’s science fiction epic stormed the North American box office this weekend earning $81.5 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It’s the first major hit of 2024, and one that was sorely needed by exhibitors. Although there have been holdovers from December that have continued to earn, like Warner Bros.’ Wonka (also starring Chalamet) and Sony’s romantic comedy Anyone But You, the box office is in a bit of a drought. In the first two months of 2024, no films have crossed $100 million domestically. The highest earning movies have been The Beekeeper, Bob Marley: One Love and Mean Girls.

Dune 2 rode a wave of great reviews (94 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) into a marketplace that was essentially free of competition. Warner Bros. released it in 4,071 locations in the U.S. and Canada, where audiences across the board gave it the highest PostTrak marks and an A CinemaScore. According to exit data, men accounted for 59 per cent of opening weekend ticket buyers and 64 per cent were over the age of 25. The sequel was primarily financed by Legendary.

Premium large format screens like IMAX and 70mm accounted for 48 per cent of the opening weekend business. It marked a March record for IMAX, which made up $18.5 million of the overall take. The $81.5 million debut is a record for Villeneuve, Chalamet, Austin Butler and Rebecca Ferguson.

Originally planned for an October 2023 release, Warner Bros. bumped the movie to March amid the Hollywood strikes that would have prevented its starry cast from doing the promotional circuit. The global promo tour has been on hyperdrive for about a month, driving conversations with buzzy interviews, the viral sandworm-inspired popcorn bucket and eye-popping fashion moments from the stylish young cast – peaking with Zendaya’s silver cyborg showstopper (vintage Mugler) in London. They’ve made stops in Mexico City, South Korea, Abu Dhabi and New York City.

The first Dune opened under complicated conditions in October 2021. It was one of the last films of Warner Bros.’ divisive plan to simultaneously debut its major movies in theaters and on its streaming platform. And yet it still earned over $40 million in its first weekend and went on to gross over $400 million worldwide.

Going into the weekend the box office was down about 20 per cent from the same point last year (when Avatar: The Way of Water, a 2022 release, was lifting everything). The closest equivalent this year is Wonka, still a hit, but not as big as Avatar 2. After the “Dune” weekend, the deficit will be closer to 13 per cent.

“It shows how important one movie can be to the overall health of the industry,” Dergarabedian said. “But this is not a one-hit wonder for March. It’s a momentum business. Now we’re going to get the wind back in the sails as we head further into March, April and the summer movie season.”

Warner Bros. is one of those studios that will be back in short order with another big film, in Godzilla x Kong at the end of March, followed by Furiosa in May, the Beetlejuice sequel in September and the Joker sequel in October.

“This is our year,” Goldstein said. “Exhibitors are fighting for their lives but we can be clever and collaborative with them to keep our business relevant to audiences.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. Dune: Part Two, $81.5 million.

2. Bob Marley: One Love, $7.4 million.

3. Ordinary Angels, $3.9 million.

4. Madame Web, $3.2 million.

5. The Chosen: Season 4, Episodes 7-8, $3.2 million.

6. Migration, $2.5 million.

7. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashi,” $2.1 million.

8. Wonka, $1.7 million.

9. Argylle, $1.4 million.

10. The Beekeeper, $1.1 million.