Part Two' hit theaters on Friday amid a box office drought

Timothee Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve's „Dune: Part Two.”

Warner Bros | Legendary entertainer

LOS ANGELES — Movie theater operators believe so Warner Bros. And Legendary Entertainment's „Toon: Part Two,” which hits theaters Friday, will be a much-needed oasis amid the drought of blockbuster content.

Since the start of the year, the domestic box office has taken in just $866.4 million in ticket sales through Sunday, a nearly 18% drop from the same period in 2023, according to data from ComScore. A boost earlier this year could prove crucial for the box office, which is still struggling to recover the $10 billion in domestic annual ticket sales last seen before the Covid pandemic.

„The arrival of 'Dune: Part Two' comes at a time when the industry is looking for a blockbuster that will spark that momentum,” said Paul Tergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore.

No film has ever grossed more than $100 million in 2024. When the surprise hits Sony's With „Nobody But You” It's Paramount „Mean Girls” and „Bob Marley: One Love” helped fill theaters, with few blockbuster holdovers at the box office over the holidays and new offerings in the new year.

Last year, ticket sales rose to $263 million in the first quarter Disney's „Avatar: The Way of Water” hit theaters last year in December. Similarly, Sony and Marvel's 2021 hit „Spider-Man: No Way Home” had more than $200 million in residual sales in 2022.

„We're used to these peaks and valleys,” said Bill Barstow, who runs ACX Cinemas, a theater chain with six locations in five states. „Of course, there's no mystery with the pandemic and the attacks and all the stuff that's been kicking us for the last three years. But something like 'Dune' is coming.”

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Top 10 movie titles released in 2024 so far

  • „Wonka” (Warner Bros.) – $81.3 million
  • „Mean Girls” (Paramount) – $72.1 million
  • „Bob Marley: A Romance” (Paramount) – $71.1 million
  • „Migration” (Universal) – $66.2 million
  • „The Beekeeper” (Amazon MGM) – $63.1 million
  • „Nobody But You” (Sony) – $62.1 million
  • „Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (Warner Bros.) – $47.6 million
  • „Argyll” (Universal) – $41.6 million
  • „Madam Web” (Sony) – $35.3 million
  • „Night Swim” (Universal) – $31.8 million

Source: ComScore

„It's been a winter-long slog at the box office, unsurprisingly after several strike-induced delays that have crushed an already low studio slate in recent months,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. „'Dune: Part Two' Marks a Turning of the Tide.”

While Warner Bros. is projecting a conservative $65 million debut for the highly-anticipated sci-fi sequel, box office analysts are expecting $70 million to $80 million. In particular, moviegoers will gravitate toward premium large-format screenings that cost more than regular tickets.

„We have sold out 'See It First' screenings at all of our IMAX locations and the response from guests has already been overwhelmingly positive,” said Larry H. said Jeff Whipple, vice president of advertising, marketing and public relations at Miller Megaplex Theaters. Operates in 15 locations, primarily in Utah.

„Utah movie fans know that 'Dune: Part Two' is a big movie that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen,” he said, noting that Megaplex venues are seeing strong advanced ticket sales for premium auditoriums such as IMAX, Dolby Atmos. D-Box operating screens.

The draw of these high-priced tickets has led some viewers to believe that the film will exceed expectations.

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„I think Warner Bros. is being conservative,” said Tim Handren, CEO of Sandy's Entertainment, a regional cinema chain with 27 theaters in eight states. „Warner Bros. has done a fantastic job marketing this movie.”

„They are geniuses at marketing,” he added. „They know how to create awareness.”

The cast of the film has been promoting the film for weeks, appearing at junkets, video interviews and late-night shows. Even the stars' premiere outfits make headlines and create awareness about the film's release.

Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya attend the world premiere of „Toon: Part Two” at Leicester Square on February 15, 2024 in London, England.

Gareth Cattermole | Getty Images Entertainment | Good pictures

Along with industry veterans Christopher Walken, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Dave Bautista, „Toon: Part Two” stars four of Hollywood's biggest young stars: Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler.

Early ticket sales for the weekend are ahead It's universal „Oppenheimer” opened to $82.4 million, but below „Jurassic World Dominion,” which debuted to about $145 million, according to data from Fandango.

Cinema operators are more interested in „Toon: Part Two's” longevity at the box office as they focus on the film's opening weekend run.

While March has several new releases that will help boost the overall domestic box office, „April wasn't nearly as strong,” Handren pointed out.

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Titles like „Toon: Part Two” — which have a real show left in theaters with little drop-off in ticket sales week after week — can help keep the box office afloat until the summer movie season kicks off in early May.

The film also gives viewers a chance to tease upcoming movies with more familiar previews before the film begins.

„I think 'Dune' opens up a whole world to us in the summer,” Barstow said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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