Dune 2 is So Popular in China that Denis Villeneuve is Getting Free Hot Sauce

The sci-fi saga has proven to be a box office smash in China, inspiring spicy memes and raising hopes for Hollywood’s engagement with Chinese audiences

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7:58 PM HKT, Tue March 19, 2024 1 mins read

Dune: Part Two is proving to be a major hit in Chinese cinemas, sparking excitement rarely felt for foreign films in China these days. Director Denis Villeneuve has even turned up in Beijing for promotional events, where Chinese fans presented him with gifts of the iconic hot sauce Lao Gan Ma (老干妈) and the spice blend Shi San Xiang (十三香), referencing a meme that’s swept across Chinese social media and hails the two products as “the Chinese version of the Spice Melange,” the most valuable substance in the Dune universe.

RADII has you covered for meme translations, as we do.


The warm exchange between Villeneuve and his Chinese fans encapsulates the sweeping success of Dune: Part Two across Chinese cinemas. In its opening weekend alone, the film boasted an impressive gross of over 140 million RMB, amassing a total of over 266 million RMB over just 11 days of screening.


Per box office tracker Maoyan’s data, Dune: Part Two soared to the second spot in China’s national box office rankings, edging out many previously popular domestic films and trailing only slightly behind Taiwan crime thriller The Pig, the Snake and the Pigeon — a remarkable feat for a Hollywood production. Notably, on its first Monday, March 11, Dune: Part Two captured nearly 40% of the day’s total ticket sales, doubling the performance of the Taiwanese action film.


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Dune’s remarkable success as showcased by data on Maoyan.


Beyond its impressive box office numbers, the film seems to also be resonating with cinephiles. With a stellar 9.1 rating on Maoyan and an exceptional 8.3 on Douban, it has outperformed many locally-produced films. In reviews posted on Douban, humorous comments like “In the end, the female lead cries and takes a taxi away” and “Sandworms, the Fremen’s high-speed rail,” along with effusive praise like “Incredibly stunning! […] It’s the Lord of the Rings plus Star Wars trilogy of our era!!!” speak to how warmly the film has been received in China.


Moreover, Dune: Part Two has brought Timothée Chalamet greater exposure in China than ever before. His soaring popularity was highlighted in a recent interview where he expressed gratitude for the affectionate nickname Chinese fans bestowed upon him: Tian Cha (甜茶, Sweet Tea). The nickname is a clever piece of wordplay, transliterating “Tim” into “Tian” and Chalamet into “Cha,” while reflecting perceptions of the star’s personality as “sweet.”


In an era where Chinese audiences have grown increasingly distant towards Hollywood offerings, the remarkable success of Dune: Part Two sets a high bar that upcoming releases like Kung Fu Panda 4 and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire may find challenging to match.


Banner image: Denis Villeneuve and Dune: Part Two producer Tanya Lapointe enjoy traditional candied hawthorns on their visit to Beijing. Image via Weibo.

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