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‘Dune 2’ spices up the box office after a months-long dry spell

Christi Carras – Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Warner Bros.’ “Dune: Part Two” easily sandwormed its way to the top of the domestic box office this weekend, grossing $81.5 million and securing the biggest opening of 2024, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The highly anticipated sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-winning sci-fi epic slightly exceeded early box office predictions, which projected a $70 million to $80 million opening in the United States and Canada.

Internationally, “Dune 2” launched at $97 million for a global cumulative of $178.5 million, per studio estimates.

The futuristic blockbuster has given the domestic box office a desperately needed boost following a roughly four-month dry spell that has put a strain on exhibitors.

The last movies to open this well in North American theaters were AMC Theatres’ “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” ($93.2 million) and Universal Pictures’ “Five Nights at Freddy’s” ($80 million), both released in October. And nothing has come close to achieving “Barbie” ($162 million) levels of success since the doll-inspired comedy famously bowed opposite Universal’s “Oppenheimer” ($82.5 million) in July.

Prior to the arrival of “Dune 2,” domestic box office revenue was down 20% compared to 2023 and 40% compared to the pre-pandemic numbers exhibitors have been chasing since 2019. This weekend’s numbers dropped the year-over-year figure to 13%.

Movie theaters were still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic when the Hollywood writers and actors went on strike last year, prompting the major studios to delay some of their biggest releases — including “Dune 2,” which was previously slated for November 2023.

Rounding out the top three at the weekend’s domestic box office were Paramount Pictures’ “Bob Marley: One Love,” which collected $7.4 million in its third frame for a North American cumulative of $82.8 million; and Lionsgate’s “Ordinary Angels,” which added $3.9 million in its sophomore outing for a North American total of $12.6 million.

“Dune 2,” based on the classic Frank Herbert novel, stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya as warriors fighting to save the desert planet Arrakis from the brutal and exploitative Harkonnens. The supporting cast includes Austin Butler, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling and Florence Pugh.

Warner Bros. positioned “Dune 2” well for success.

Due to the delayed launch, the film’s star-studded cast was able to tour the globe to promote it, with Hollywood it-girl Zendaya and her impeccable red-carpet fashion sense dominating social media.

A month before “Dune 2” hit theaters, the first “Dune” was briefly reissued in IMAX and screened along with an appetite-whetting sneak peak of the sequel. Meanwhile, the official “Dune 2” popcorn bucket — modeled after the mouth of a sandworm native to Arrakis — went viral and even inspired a “Saturday Night Live” sketch for reasons that won’t be described here.

In another strategic move, the studio lifted the review embargo for “Dune 2” early, allowing critics to sing the movie’s praises for more than a week leading up to its debut. The spicy sequel consequently earned a glowing 94% on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and an A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“Less an act of literary fidelity than generosity, (Villeneuve’s) sequel plunges us into the book’s messianic prophecies, but also into spiritual uncertainty, cultural conflict and doubt, as it must,” Los Angeles Times film editor Joshua Rothkopf writes in his review.

“Villeneuve has made good on one of the great Hollywood gambles in recent memory, delivering a two-part epic of literary nuance, timely significance and maybe even the promise of another film or two.”

Opening in wide release next weekend are Lionsgate’s “Imaginary,” Universal’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” and Angel Studios’ “Cabrini.”


©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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