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Memorial Day box office: ‘Furiosa’ and ‘Garfield’ lead

NEW YORK (AP) -Movie theatres are resembling a barren landscape this summer as “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Garfield Movie” fail to salvage Memorial Day weekend, heading towards a two-decade low.

“Furiosa,” the Mad Max prequel starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, secured the top spot for the Friday-Saturday-Sunday weekend with USD25.6 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Warner Bros plans to release its four-day estimates on Monday.

“The Garfield Movie,” animated and family-friendly, was the other major release over the weekend from Sony’s Columbia Pictures and Alcon Entertainment. It is projected to be the No 1 film for the four-day holiday weekend, with an estimated USD31.9 million in ticket sales through Memorial Day. Sony estimates its three-day earnings to be USD24.8 million.

Excluding Memorial Day in 2020 when theaters were shuttered due to COVID-19, these are the lowest-grossing No 1 movies in 29 years, since “Casper” earned USD22.5 million (not adjusted for inflation) in its first four days in 1995. The holiday weekend typically sees big earners, with ten movies surpassing USD100 million, led by “Top Gun: Maverick’s” record-setting USD160 million launch in 2022. Last year, the live-action “The Little Mermaid” joined the list with a USD118 million debut. Even amid the pandemic, audiences turned out in larger numbers in 2021 for “A Quiet Place Part II,” which earned over USD57 million.

“This was a rather slow Memorial weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “A few things didn’t happen that created this situation: We didn’t have a tailwind heading into the summer. We kicked off the summer minus a Marvel movie. In a way, we’ve been playing catch up all year long.”

This image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows Anya Taylor-Joy in a scene from “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga”. PHOTO: AP

“Furiosa” wasn’t expected to join the USD 100 million opener club. Although Warner Bros released it on 3,804 screens in the US and Canada, it was anticipated to have a slightly stronger showing in the USD40 million range over its first four days. This would have been more in line with its predecessor, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which opened to USD45.4 million in May 2015. “Fury Road,” starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, went on to gross nearly USD380 million worldwide.

This new origin story, with Taylor-Joy portraying a younger version of Theron’s character, had several positives, including strong reviews from the Cannes Film Festival (it has an 89 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a successful international press tour with many buzzworthy premieres featuring Taylor-Joy. Internationally, it earned USD33.3 million, resulting in a USD58.9 million global launch. With a reported USD 168 million production budget, not accounting for marketing and promotion, “Furiosa” faces a challenging path to profitability.

“The Garfield Movie,” on the other hand, had a more modest budget, reportedly at USD60 million, and is viewed as a promising start for the franchise. It previously debuted internationally and has garnered over USD66 million to date. Its domestic launch far exceeded the first weekends of previous Garfield movie attempts.

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt (left) and Chris Pratt arrive at the premiere of “The Garfield Movie” on May 19, at TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. PHOTO: INVISION/AP

Chris Pratt voices the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating orange cat in the film, which received scathing reviews from critics (it holds a 37 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes). However, audiences gave both “Furiosa” and “The Garfield Movie” a B+ CinemaScore and 4.5 stars out of 5 on PostTrak.

In its second weekend, John Krasinski’s “IF” experienced a 53 per cent decline, adding USD16.1 million through Sunday and USD20.7 million through Monday, bringing its domestic total to USD63.3 million. Worldwide, it has surpassed USD100 million. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” now in its third weekend, added USD13.4 million through Sunday, bringing its global total to USD294.8 million, making it the fourth-highest grossing film of the year.

This all points to a summer moviegoing season that not only falls short of a typical USD4 billion stretch but may struggle to reach USD3 billion. Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter asked, “What happened to the USD100 million opener?” Notably, 2024 has yet to produce one. The year’s biggest release was “Dune: Part Two,” which opened to USD82.5 million and earned over USD711 million worldwide.

“Moviegoing begets moviegoing,” Derarabedian said. “Every studio is rooting for every other studio to have a big hit.”

The absence of recent runaway hits puts more pressure on upcoming films to compensate for the shortfall. Still to come are potential blockbusters like Paramount’s “A Quiet Place: Day One” (June 27), Universal’s “Despicable Me 4” (July 3) and “Twisters” (July 19), and two heavy-hitters from Disney: “Inside Out 2” (June 14) and “Deadpool & Wolverine” (July 26).

“It ain’t over yet,” Dergarabedian said. “There’s a lot of big movies on the way. The summer heat is on for the June and July films to really deliver.”