‘Dune: Part Two’ worms its way to a massive opening weekend

And so it happened as it was written. “Dune: Part Two,” expected to spice up the box office, has done so.

The sequel to 2021’s “Dune” earned an estimated $81.5 million for its opening weekend at the domestic box office, according to official estimates from Warner Bros. released Sunday. The film collected an additional $97 million overseas, leading to an estimated total of $178.5 million across 72 markets, according to studio numbers. The film opened across 4,071 theaters in North America.

The “Dune” sequel racked up $32.2 million across 809 Imax screens worldwide — with it yet to open in Japan and China — according to a news release from Imax.

These numbers give “Dune: Part Two” the highest opening weekend of any film in 2024 so far. It was the highest opening all-time for director Denis Villeneuve, as well as for stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Austin Butler, according to Warner Bros.

The $81.5 million opening also almost doubles the opening weekend of its predecessor, which earned $41 million when it was released in October 2021. The fast start is slightly below that of “Oppenheimer,” which bagged $82.4 million during its first weekend last summer en route to a total domestic gross of $329 million.

In “Dune: Part Two,” Chalamet’s Paul Atreides and Zendaya’s Chani work together to combat the villainous Harkonnen family, who are mining the desert and super-sandy planet of Arakkis of its valuable spice materials. But Paul, deemed a potential messiah by a group of freedom fighters called the Fremen, wrestles with the consequences of trying to lead people who believe in him.

The sequel, which is based on the 1965 science fiction epic novel “Dune” by Frank Herbert, was originally scheduled to be released in fall 2023, but it was delayed due to the Hollywood strikes, which limited the film’s promotional opportunities.

Critics have widely celebrated the movie, calling it a visual masterpiece with layers of storytelling. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday wrote that the movie was packed with stunning visuals (and sand) in an overall positive review. Others have praised the film’s cinematography and epic action scenes.

“This is truly one of most magnificent cinematic achievements of all time. Filled with breathtaking images, stunning action and a story that transcends the science fiction genre,” wrote Rick Romancito of the Taos News.

The multilayered film has shown to be something of a pop culture event so far. Screenings across the country are packed from sunup to sundown. A popcorn cup tied to the film has gone viral. And, amid opening weekend, social media timelines and news feeds were packed with speculation, commentary, memes and theories about the movie.

All signs point toward a third Dune movie being made, which will probably adapt Herbert’s novel “Dune Messiah,” the follow-up to the original book. Villeneuve has teased finishing the story with a third movie, though he has also suggested it might be awhile before he wraps up the tale. A report from the tech news site Polygon estimated that a rumored third film might not hit theaters until 2030.

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