“Dune” is officially getting a sequel.
Legendary Entertainment announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, ensuring that the spice will continue to flow on screen. Warner Bros. will distribute the film and help finance it, though Legendary is the primary money behind the movie and owns the film rights to the book series. The film is expected to have an exclusive theatrical run, and Legendary will likely make that point iron-clad after “Dune” debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max last week. The unorthodox distribution pattern was a pandemic-era concession by Warner Bros., but one that caused an uproar when it was unveiled in 2020. “Dune: Part 2” will hit theaters on Oct. 20, 2023.
This is only the beginning…
— Legendary (@Legendary) October 26, 2021
The first part of the sci-fi epic, which opened Oct. 22 in the U.S., earned $41 million in ticket sales in its first weekend. That result was the best film opening of the year for Warner Bros. and a sign of fans’ desire to not only stream “Dune,” but see it on the big screen. The film has also performed well overseas, earning nearly $225 million globally. Its domestic opening results were roughly in line with what Warner Bros. expected the film to generate when it was greenlit, which is notable because that’s long before COVID-19 upended the media landscape.
A return to Arrakis was always part of the plan. Director Denis Villeneuve was adamant in interviews that his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel would have two parts. In fact, the film’s opening title sequence rather boldly read “Dune: Part 1.”
When interviewed by Variety at the Toronto Film Festival, Villeneuve said, “I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm… As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”
There’s still a lot of story left to unfold. “Dune: Part 1” ends with Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, a Messianic figure at the heart of the series, seeking shelter from enemies in the desert. “Dune: Part 2” will follow his efforts to exact revenge against the noble families who murdered his father, Duke Leto Atreides, and restore himself to power.
WarnerMedia leadership also hinted at a part two in an interview with Variety on Thursday, with executive Ann Sarnoff saying that the greenlight would be based on “the entirety of what ‘Dune’ can do for the company, including HBO Max.”
“The story in itself sets up for a sequel. The production is so amazing and the storytelling is so compelling that it’s not going to be judged on box office alone,” Sarnoff said.
Last winter, “Dune’s” release threatened to be overshadowed by Warner Bros.’s decision to release its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max at the same time the movies debuted in cinemas. Legendary threatened legal action and Villeneuve blasted the move, but tensions have since eased, not just with the “Dune” team, but with other artists put off by the Warner Bros. decision. Several of the filmmakers behind movies that failed to connect at the box office, such as “In the Heights” and “Cry Macho,” still came out on top after the studio opted to payout backend deals as a way to smooth over ruffled feathers. Warner Bros. has committed to releasing its films exclusively in theaters for 45-day runs beginning in 2022.
In “Dune’s” case, the two companies and Villeneuve had nothing but nice things to say when they officially announced another installment. Legendary offered that “We would not have gotten to this point without the extraordinary vision of Denis and the amazing work of his talented crew, the writers, our stellar cast, our partners at Warner Bros., and of course the fans! Here’s to more Dune.”
Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich was also effusive, saying, “We are thrilled to continue on this journey with Denis and his cast and crew, and our partners at Legendary, and can’t wait to bring the next chapter of this epic tale to theaters in October 2023.”
The first “Dune” film stars Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. Casting for the film’s second part has not yet been announced, but many members of the ensemble, such as Chalamet, have said they’re game to come back for more. As for Villeneuve, not only has he directed his biggest box office hit, but he’s also getting to adapt the novel his way.
“It was a dream of mine to adapt Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ and I have the fans, the cast, and crew, Legendary and Warner Bros. to thank for supporting this dream,” he said. “This is only the beginning.”
Critics were mostly kind to “Dune,” and reviews aside, Villeneuve has accomplished something many thought impossible. Directors struggled for decades to bring Herbert’s novels to the screen and when David Lynch finally did manage to adapt the sprawling book, the result was 1984’s “Dune,” a catastrophe on every level and a picture that the filmmaker would later disavow. This “Dune” may not just be a commercial success, it may also have legs in awards season, with some prognosticators arguing it has Oscars potential.
Warner Bros. and Legendary previously partnered on last March’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” a monster mash-up that grossed an impressive $467.8 million globally.
There’s also plenty more “Dune” to be had beyond one follow-up. Herbert wrote several more novels set in the Dune-everse, though subsequent books grow increasingly arcane and less reader-friendly.