Memorial Day Box Office Hits 30-Year Low Despite ‘Furiosa’, ‘Garfield Movie’ Releases

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The American summer movie season has been playing out like a nail-biting cliffhanger, with silver screens across the nation resembling more of a barren wasteland than illustrious playgrounds of cinematic wonder. This disturbing trend was painfully evident over Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the box office’s most lucrative periods, with both ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ and ‘The Garfield Movie’ failing to prevail against the tide of box office decline.

‘Furiosa’, a prequel to the stark dystopian universe of the Mad Max saga and buoyed by ensemble of stars including Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, emerged as the king of the ashes, staking claim to the weekend’s crown with a modest haul of $25.6 million according to studio estimates that arrived on Sunday. Warner Bros. opted to reserve its four-day number reveal until Monday.

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Sonny’s Columbia Pictures and Alcon Entertainment countered with ‘The Garfield Movie,’ a light-hearted animated family entertainment offering. Managing to claw its way to the top over the four-day holiday weekend, it secured an estimated $31.9 million in ticket sales up till Memorial Day.

However, amidst the faded grandeur of a pandemic-ridden year, the results cast a chilling reflection on the state of the movie industry. Since Memorial Day 2020 when movie theaters were forced to seal their doors, these two films have barely managed to cross the finish line with the lowest earnings seen in nearly thirty years. They stand in stark contrast to the crowning glory of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’s’ record-breaking $160 million launch in 2022, and the wealth of movies which held the over-$100 million earnings club hostage over the years.

Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore, painted a grim picture by stating, “A few things didn’t happen that created this situation: We didn’t have a tailwind heading into the summer. We’ve been playing catch up all year long.”

Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed ‘Furiosa’ was not expected to rub shoulders with the $100 million opener club, with its debut across 3,804 screens across the United States and Canada. Its diminished first four days’ earnings though, are a far cry from its predecessor ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ which blazed on to the screens to the resounding tune of $45.4 million in its opening May 2015 weekend.

Despite positive reviews and an international press tour that hit all the right beats, ‘Furiosa’ finds itself on a precarious journey to profitability, post its global launch that added up to a respectable, but underwhelming, $58.9 million.

On the other end of the spectrum, the slightly more sensibly budgeted ‘The Garfield Movie’ offered a more optimistic launch for the franchise, its earnings standing at a sturdy $66 million despite scathing reviews greeting it upon its domestic release.

Despite these results, the movies’ impression on audiences tells a different story. Both ‘Furiosa’ and ‘The Garfield Movie’ managed to secure a B+ CinemaScore and an impressive 4.5 stars out of 5 on PostTrak, promising that the love for the silver screen still burns bright in the hearts of audiences.

Other notable entrants in the movie race included John Krasinski’s ‘IF’ which managed to amass $16.1 million in its second weekend, and ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ racking up $13.4 million in its third weekend, solidifying its position as the fourth highest-grossing film of the year.

This summation of the summer’s offerings falls painfully short of the usual box office riches, and even the possibility of reaching $3 billion seems like a daunting challenge. As Dergarabedian put it, “Moviegoing begets moviegoing. Every studio is rooting for every other studio to have a big hit.”

In the midst of this subdued box office performance, the weight falls heavily on the future releases, with eyes keenly focused on the likes of ‘A Quiet Place: Day One,’ ‘Despicable Me 4,’ ‘Twisters,’ ‘Inside Out 2′, and ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’.

“These upcoming June and July films will really have to deliver – the summer heat is on,” Dergarabedian stated, a sentiment she is not alone in harboring. As the dust settles on this weekend, it’s clear that the industry has yet to reveal its Endgame.