Weekend Box Office: DUNE: PART TWO Seizes Control of Theaters

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise, © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This weekend, Paul Atreides rode Shai-Hulud all the way to the bank, as Warner Bros. injected life into the 2024 box office with Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. The sci-fi epic opened in first place across 4,071 screens domestically, producing an $81.5 million bow in North America. For perspective, that’s more than last weekend’s total domestic earnings of $60.1 million across 66 titles in release.

Internationally the film also performed strongly with an estimated $97 million overseas take on 24,256 screens in 71 markets. This does not include China and Japan, which will roll the film out on March 8 and 15, respectively. The five biggest international territories were the United Kingdom ($11.8 million) France ($9.6 million), Germany ($9.1 million), South Korea ($6.9M), and Australia ($6M).

Dune: Part Two scored an “A” CinemaScore and 5 out of 5 on ComScore’s PostTrak, a good indication that word of mouth will keep the movie holding steady in the weeks to come, as does the rare critical (94%) and audience (95%) favorability consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.

Representing the largest domestic opening weekend of 2024 to date, this film also represents the largest opening of all time for Denis Villeneuve, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Austin Butler. Considering that Zendaya, Josh Brolin, and Dave Bautista are all Marvel Studios vets this is decidedly NOT their largest opening.

Here’s how each day panned out, with the audience front-loading the Friday:

  • Friday – $32.35M
  • Saturday – $28.85M
  • Sunday – $20.3M

Demographically, Dune: Part Two skewed heavily on the men side with 59% Male and 41% Female, with 64% of the audience over age 25. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 65% Caucasian
  • 14% Hispanic
  • 9% African‐American
  • 8% Asian
  • 4% Native‐American

Dune: Part Two is the kind of blockbuster built for the IMAX experience (it was shot entirely with IMAX digital cameras), a key driver in earning $32.2M from 809 IMAX screens worldwide, split $18.5M domestic and $13.7M international. That domestic IMAX performance represents the biggest March opening ever and 22.7% of the domestic take. Overall, premium formats represented 48% of Dune business this weekend including not only IMAX but also Dolby Cinema, PLF/Premium Large Formats, 70mm, and Motion Seating.

The film had a $20K per-screen-average, with the AMC Lincoln Square in New York City emerging as the #1 location in North America thanks to its spacious IMAX 70mm and Dolby Cinema auditoriums. The top 5 highest-earning locations for Dune: Part Two in North America all screened the film in IMAX 70mm; following Lincoln Square are the TCL Chinese Los Angeles, Cineplex Cinema Banque Scotia Motnreal, AMC Metreon San Francisco, and the Regal Irvine Specturm Los Angeles. The rest of the top ten is includes the AMC Burbank, Cineplex Scotiabank Toronto, AMC EMpire New York, AMC Universal Citywalk Los Angeles, and the AMC Kips Bay New York. Los Angeles was the top-earning DMA for the film, followed by New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Dallas, Seattle, Washington DC, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Denver.

Warners’ decision to move Dune: Part Two from its original November 2023 slot to March paid off, as cast members like Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya (who would have had to bow out of the promo circuit due to last year’s strike) have been able to worm their way into the hearts of the press by appearing in many viral interviews and splashy premieres. “We’ve had a lot of success in March, not just with one or two films, but as an industry,” Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros., shared with Boxoffice Pro. “For Warner Bros., we recently launched titles like The Batman and Godzilla: Skull Island in March. It’s an interesting month where you have rolling spring breaks, and if a movie hits you can reach college students, high school kids, and their parents as well. It was a natural decision for us once we realized we wouldn’t have the cast available [for a November release].”

The performance of the new film is a significant uptick on 2021’s Dune: Part One, which took in $41,011,174 million in 4125 theaters in its opening frame on its way to a $109.9 million domestic cume and $434.8 million worldwide. Of course, those numbers were hindered by COVID-19 and the studio’s decision to release the movie day-and-date on HBO Max. As it stands, Part Two could very well double both the previous installment’s domestic and international numbers before the sand has settled.

Science fiction is -literally- tricky business. It’s easy to get swept up in the online fanaticism of devoted fan bases, but to justify the spend of colossal undertakings like Warners’ Dune series (both films costing well above $150 million) you need to reach as wide an audience as possible. Outsized expectations have plagued hotly anticipated franchise installments like 2012’s Prometheus ($51 million domestic opening, $402M total WW) or 2009’s Star Trek ($79 million domestic opening, $386M total WW). When those pricy films launched, the Alien and Star Trek franchise’s biggest overall performers were from 1986: Aliens ($85 million) and Star Trek IV ($109 million). The R-rated horror of Alien cuts off many younger audiences, while Star Trek is very much the domain of more cerebral sci-fi fans. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek ultimately earned enough to justify follow-ups, but the audience petered out upon second or third helpings. Even though Dune has always been marketed as “Star Wars for grownups,” the material itself is far too complex (Machiavellian politics) and tragic (a hero turned dictator) to ever reach the four-quadrant heights of George Lucas’ fairy tale galaxy far far away. That’s why compared to a gold standard like Lucasfilm’s Star Wars IP this performance isn’t quite as favorable. For example, the poorly-received 2019 entry Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker took in $177.3 million in its opening frame, while 2018’s noted underperformer Solo: A Star Wars Story took home $84.4M for its first 3-day.

When examining the top 25 all-time domestic sci-fi movies, it is made up of only a handful of franchises: Star Wars, Avatar, Jurassic Park, Hunger Games, Jumanji, and Transformers, along with two solo outliers (E.T. and Independence Day). The older-skewing, less family-friendly Dune does not even rate with these others, with the 2021 movie coming in at #94 on the domestic sci-fi chart. Probably the closest comp for what the Dune franchise could aspire to would be Fox’s darker, apocalyptic Planet of the Apes series, which reached its peak with 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at $208 million domestic (#42 all-time domestic sci-fi) and $710M WW. Even then, remember that Apes is an iconic brand of 9 films dating back to the 60’s, with another on the way this year. Despite the continued popularity of the novels, Dune‘s cinematic legacy is merely the 1984 David Lynch dud (which carries a moderate cult following) and a somewhat forgotten pair of Sci-Fi Channel miniseries from the early 2000’s.

Dune: Part Two very much ends with a cliffhanger, and while Warners greenlighting the eventual Dune: Messiah looks like a foregone conclusion, the studio may have to tread cautiously with the budgets rising too far north of the current one’s $190 million. Much will be learned from Dune: Part Two‘s second week hold, but long-term the prospects look good, with the best case scenario being something akin to Avatar: The Way of Water‘s seven-weekend hold at #1. The demand of PLF showtimes is also poised to help cushion weekend drops in the coming frames.

“There are movies that are ‘Must-See’ in theaters, that the audience appreciates as immersive, communal experiences on the biggest screen with the best sound possible,” shares Goldstein with Boxoffice Pro. “We’ve had a very successful partnership with IMAX going back to 2003. It is a differentiated experience from the home—and it’s no surprise that we first started seeing sell-outs on IMAX 70mm, followed by IMAX [Laser], and then standard IMAX. We also saw great results from exhibitors’ private label PLF screens, it just shows you the positive response to seeing this film as a moviegoing experience. [Our opening weekend] is very balanced, which tells you that on the second and third weekends, we’re likely going to see a scenario with really good holds. We expect a very long play globally because of that water cooler “FOMO” experience, where people want to be part of the cultural moment and see this movie in the way they perceive as the most premium manner possible.”

It will get significant competition this month with Kung Fu Panda 4 next weekend, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire on the 22nd, and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire on the 29th. This weekend’s #1 performance is certainly a win for WB, theater owners, and audiences hungry for a quality blockbuster. As for overall franchise longevity… it’s a win with an asterisk.

Other Notable Performances

Paramount’s reggae biopic Bob Marley: One Love continued to perform strongly, taking the #2 spot with $7.4M domestic (45% drop) in 3390 theaters and $8.8M in 56 international markets in its third weekend. This brings the domestic total to $82.8 million and the worldwide to $146.1 million.

Fathom Events release of Angel Studios’ The Chosen: Season 4 Episodes 7 – 8 took in $3,915,535 million its first weekend, on par with the rest of the season. The season finale’s biggest day was Saturday with $1.2 million. With the previous weeks’ Episodes 1-3 and 4-6 grossing a combined $23M+, expect to see more streaming series (even beyond -but certainly including- faith-based shows) making the leap to the communal theatrical experience.

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title Weekend Estimate % Change Locations Location Change PSA Domestic Total Week Distributor
Dune: Part Two $81,500,000   4,071   $20,020 $81,500,000 N Warner Bros.
Bob Marley: One Love $7,430,000 -45% 3,390 -207 $2,192 $82,771,000 -1 Paramount Pi…
Ordinary Angels $3,850,000 -38% 3,020 n/c $1,275 $12,561,122 -3 Lionsgate
Madame Web $3,200,000 -46% 3,116 -897 $1,027 $40,442,000 -4 Sony Pictures
The Chosen: Season 4 Episodes 7-8 $3,154,905   2,204   $1,431 $3,915,535 N Fathom Events
Migration $2,500,000 -13% 2,204 -230 $1,134 $123,457,000 -5 Universal
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba—To the Hashira T… $2,065,000 -82% 1,949 n/c $1,060 $15,701,000 -2 Crunchyroll
Wonka $1,735,000 -29% 1,732 -471 $1,002 $216,760,000 -7 Warner Bros.
Argylle $1,400,000 -49% 2,283 -777 $613 $43,969,000 -6 Universal
The Beekeeper $1,114,519 -43% 2,157 n/c $517 $64,928,965 -9 Amazon MGM S…
Drive-Away Dolls $1,000,430 -58% 2,278 -2 $439 $4,324,000 -8 Focus Features
Perfect Days $480,000 -26% 271 18 $1,771 $2,157,013 -13 Neon
Anyone But You $435,000 -65% 603 -852 $721 $87,810,000 -11 Sony Pictures
Poor Things $410,000 -29% 550 10 $745 $33,571,592 -15 Searchlight …
Land of Bad $360,000 -63% 574 -743 $627 $4,364,732 -12 The Avenue E…
American Fiction $350,641 -39% 480 -122 $731 $20,598,670 (-) Amazon MGM S…
Night Swim $280,000 -35% 326 -245 $859 $32,284,000 (-) Universal
The Zone of Interest $204,022 -31% 571 200 $357 $7,810,152 (-) A24
Problemista $140,936   5   $28,187 $140,936 (-) A24
Mean Girls $125,000 -72% 219 -509 $571 $72,370,000 (-) Paramount Pi…
Lisa Frankenstein $124,000 -79% 294 -1072 $422 $9,714,000 -14 Focus Features
Oppenheimer $100,000 253.00% 453 253 $221 $329,128,000 (-) Universal
The Holdovers $85,000 145.00% 326 100 $261 $20,188,000 (-) Focus Features
All of Us Strangers $41,000 51.00% 205 180 $200 $4,021,600 (-) Searchlight …
Origin $40,000 -53% 40 -43 $1,000 $4,725,555 (-) Neon
Wish $35,000 -18% 65 -5 $538 $63,918,394 (-) Walt Disney
About Dry Grasses $19,000 30.00% 6 3 $3,167 $41,057 (-) Janus Films
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise, © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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