Will Dune Part 2 happen, based on the first film's box office?

A close up shot Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides in Dune
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

After what has felt like a lengthy wait, Dune has finally arrived in US theaters. And, based on its box office performance, it seems that the delay was worth it.

Despite the sci-fi epic's simultaneous release on HBO Max, fans appear to have opted to see Dune on the big screen. Per Variety, Dune took $40.1 million in its first weekend at the North American box office – numbers that make it Warner Bros' best performing day-and-date movie of the pandemic era. That record had previously been held by Godzilla vs Kong, which amassed $31 million back in March.

Dune's worldwide box office haul now stands at $221 million and, coupled with its positive critical reception, should mean that a sequel is greenlit. After all, Dune only covers the first half of Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi novel, so a follow-up is needed to complete its story. So, is Dune Part 2 a mere formality at this stage? Or is its future still up in the air?

At present, it seems that it's only a matter of time before Dune Part 2 is given the go ahead. 

Speaking to Variety after Dune's North American box office numbers were revealed, Warner Bros' President of Domestic Distribution Jeff Goldstein said: “I’m smiling. Exhibitors are thrilled. The best part is, fans are loving what they’re seeing. They’re loving the big-screen experience. It’s been a winner of a weekend for movie-lovers."

In a separate Deadline interview, WarnerMedia Studios Network Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff teased: "Will we have a sequel to Dune? If you watch the movie you see how it ends. I think you pretty much know the answer to that."

Those comments, on top of Dune's ticket sales, suggest that a sequel will be on the way. 

Realistically, there's only one more Warner Bros. movie that could surpass Dune's box office performance in 2021, and that's The Matrix: Resurrections. Given the hype and nostalgia that surrounds the fourth Matrix movie, it's likely that its monetary takings will eclipse those of Dune.

Still, Dune has done well to achieve the box office success it has. With Covid-19 cases on the rise in various US states, many fans may have elected to stay at home and watch it on HBO Max instead. 

It's unclear how many people did watch Dune in the comfort of their home – Warner Bros. isn't likely to release its HBO Max viewership data just yet – so, right now, Dune's theatrical performance is all we have to go on. And, given that it's the 13th best performing movie of 2021 (per Box Office Mojo) currently, it appears that fans mostly chose to watch it in theaters than on HBO Max.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica in Dune

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

While Dune Part 2 may be more likely, it isn't guaranteed that a sequel will be greenlit.

With a production budget of $165 million, Dune (on the surface) looks like it's already made a tidy profit for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. That's before you factor in the film's marketing costs, however, which are sure to be substantial. Of course, Dune will rely on merchandise sales and new HBO Max subscribers to boost its coffers. But those will pale in comparison to its box office takings, which is the primary income for any film studio.

So it's likely Warner Bros. will want to see a return on their investment before they inject another potential $165 million to $200 million into a sequel. And, with Dune requiring another $80 million to break the $300 million barrier at the global box office, there's no guarantee that it'll do so.

Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin as Leto Atreides and Gurney in Dune

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Then there's the prospect of Warner Bros. expanding the Dune universe through the TV show format on HBO Max.

An upcoming spin-off series – Dune: The Sisterhood – is currently in development for Warner Bros' streaming service. Focusing on the powerful all-female organization known as the Bene Gesserit, The Sisterhood will serve as a prequel to Dune and show whether there's audience appetite for further tales in the Dune universe.

If Warner Bros. ends up being on the fence about greenlighting Dune Part 2, Dune: The Sisterhood's performance on HBO Max could help the studio to decide whether fans want Dune Part 2 or not. If The Sisterhood's viewing figures aren't great, it may be that audiences weren't entirely enthused with Dune or its TV show spin-off. So a Dune sequel could be met with a lukewarm response.

Still, Dune: The Sisterhood is only in early development. If Warner Bros. holds off on giving the greenlight to Dune Part 2 to see how The Sisterhood is received, it won't be able to take advantage of current audience interest in the Dune series. It's likely in the studio's best interests, then, to make an earlier decision.

Timothee Chalamet plays Paul Atreides in Warner Bros' Dune film adaptation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Does Dune's box office performance justify a possible sequel? In our view, yes, especially considering the HBO Max factor. Its positive critical response and ticket sales are proof that audiences want a second Dune movie. And, given the comments made by Warner Bros' executives, the studio knows it, too.

Warner Bros. has taken a monetary hit with some of its other 2021 releases – In The Heights and The Suicide Squad, for example. But hopefully Dune has performed well enough to get that sequel.

Truthfully, we wouldn't be surprised if Dune Part 2 is confirmed within the next week or two. Audiences have show that they want more productions set in this universe and Warner Bros. have spoken openly about wanting to make that happen. It's surely just a matter of time, now.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

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