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It’s Not the Movies, It’s Imax

Timothee Chalamet Austin Butler Dune: Part Two
The blow-out opening for Dune: Part Two implies that Hollywood has succeeded in getting folks off the couch with the promise of an irreplaceable experience for films that are otherwise commercially promising. Photo: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Scott Mendelson
March 4, 2024

Dune: Part Two, which opened to $82 million domestic and $179 million global, proved to be a true breakout sequel—showing once again that Warner Bros. can be good at turning less-conventional studio programmers (Magic Mike) and event films (It) into genuine commercial hits. Not unlike the upswing openings for John Wick: Chapter 2, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Saw II, this debut cashed in on goodwill from folks who saw the original Dune in theaters and fans who discovered it later on VOD and physical media along with Max, Netflix, and Hulu, where it lived before opening weekend.  

But the most compelling data point is the stunning 48 percent domestic share represented by premium large format (P.L.F.) auditoriums—including 23 percent from Imax alone. Theatergoers shelled out for an upscale experience to watch the Warners/Legendary release. These numbers track with a post-Covid-era trend—manifested in Godzilla vs. Kong, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, Oppenheimer, etcetera—in which fans have prioritized films that seemed to benefit from the P.L.F. experience. And perhaps this offers a clue about how theatrical businesses can thrive in the new world.