Economy

‘Dune: Part Two’ Draws Large Audiences

“Dune: Part Two” and its A-list cast jump-started moviegoing in North America after a dismal start to the year.

The science-fiction sequel sold an estimated $81.5 million in tickets in the United States and Canada from Thursday night to Sunday, the biggest opening for a Hollywood film since “Barbie” in July. (Taylor Swift’s concert documentary arrived to $93 million in October.) “Dune: Part Two,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, collected an additional $97 million overseas. IMAX screenings were especially strong.

Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. spent $190 million to produce “Dune: Part Two,” not including a megawatt marketing campaign that found Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Austin Butler, Anya-Taylor Joy, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Florence Pugh trotting red carpets in Mexico City, London and New York.

The movie had originally been scheduled for November, but Legendary pushed back the release date because of the actors’ strike: Without the buzzy young cast promoting the movie — Zendaya’s bottom-baring robot suit at the London premiere arrived on the internet as a sonic boom — Legendary feared that “Part Two” would not turn out audiences in big enough numbers to warrant the high budget. Sci-fi fans were likely to come one way or another. But Legendary also needed to sell the film’s more delicate story — a boy becoming a man, a guy falling in love — which would be more difficult without cast interviews.

“It was a tough decision because I knew moving the movie out of the fall was going to cause a lot of pain for exhibition,” said Josh Grode, Legendary’s chief executive, using Hollywood jargon for theaters. “But when you have a cast like this one, you use it.”

“We’re really, really happy,” Mr. Grode added.

Ticket sales in North America had been down 20 percent this year compared with the same period last year. “Dune: Part Two” narrowed the decline to 13 percent. Theaters have struggled partly because studios have not released a steady flow of films; moviegoing begets moviegoing, analysts say, with trailers playing before titles on one weekend helping to fill seats the next. Marquees will be less sparse in March. “Kung Fu Panda 4,” “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” and Legendary’s “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” and all expected to be hits.

Second place for the weekend went to “Bob Marley: One Love” (Paramount), with about $7.4 million in ticket sales, lifting its three-week domestic total to $82.8 million. The faith-based drama “Ordinary Angels” (Lionsgate) collected $3.9 million, for a two-week total of $12.6 million.

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