(NEWSnet/AP) — Movie theaters sought a savior, and ‘Dune: Part Two’ is delivering.

With star power of Timothy Chalamet, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic stormed the North American box office this weekend, earning $81.5 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates.

Internationally, it earned $97 million, bringing its global debut to $178.5 million.

“Denis made a really extraordinary and special film and its been really exciting to see people respond," said Mary Parent, a producer on both “Dune” films and chairman of worldwide production at Legendary. “It was made for the big screen and it feels like it’s being received as a cinematic event.”

It’s the first major hit of 2024, and one that was sorely needed by exhibitors. Although there have been holdovers from December that have continued to earn, such as “Wonka”  (also starring Chalamet) and “Anyone But You,” the box office has hit a lull.

In the first two months of 2024, no films have crossed $100 million domestically.

The highest-earning movies have been “The Beekeeper,” “Bob Marley: One Love” and “Mean Girls."

“Dune 2" rode a wave ofpositive reviews (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) into a marketplace that essentially was free of competition. Warner Bros. released it in 4,071 locations in the U.S. and Canada, where audiences across the board gave it the highest PostTrak marks and an “A” CinemaScore.

According to exit data, men accounted for 59% of opening weekend ticket-buyers and 64% were over the age of 25.

The sequel was financed primarily by Legendary and its production budget, previously reported to be in the $122 million range, is closer to $190 million.

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