‘Dune 2’ Set to Breathe Some Life Into a Sluggish Box Office

Ticket sales are down 18% so far this year as the industry continues to deal with a labor-stoppage hangover.

Photo of people watching a movie in a movie theater
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

The box office this year has been drier than a desert dune. Thankfully, “Dune 2” is here to save the day.

The sci-fi sequel, based on the iconic 1965 Frank Herbert novel, hits theaters this weekend, marking Hollywood’s first major tentpole release of the year. While the film hails from Warner Bros. Discovery, the entire industry is hoping for a splash.

The Holdovers

The theater business is still dealing with a hangover brought on by last year’s dual talent strikes. In fact, “Dune 2” was originally slated to hit theaters last October, before being pushed to this spring to guarantee its A-list cast of then-striking actors could fully hit the press circuit to promote the film.

Born out of necessity, the decision may turn out to be a much-needed boost at the box office this year:

  • Warner Bros. is projecting a slightly modest $65 million opening weekend, but other analysts see the film drawing as much as $80 million, thanks to its release on premium screens like IMAX — a perk that helped fuel “Oppenheimer” to nearly $1 billion in revenue last summer.
  • Overall, the domestic box office has generated just $866 million in ticket sales this year through last weekend, according to Comscore data, an 18% dropoff from the same period a year ago. No film has crossed the $100 million mark so far this year, either.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby: While the first two months of 2024 have been rough, AMC Entertainment is at least riding high — or less low than usual — off the final three months of last year. On Wednesday, the oft-beleaguered theater chain said its Q4 revenue rose 11% to $1.1 billion, beating analyst estimates, and it only lost $182 million, narrower than last year’s loss of $287 million. In a call with the company’s investors/memestock holders, CEO Adam Aron noted the much-welcomed impact of two films last quarter: “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” and “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé.” As usual, the queens of pop remain undefeated.