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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Fails to Ignite Box Office Over Memorial Day Weekend

Hollywood had high hopes for “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” anticipating it to be a blockbuster hit over the holiday weekend. However, the Warner Bros. prequel failed to deliver the expected results, significantly underperforming at the box office.

The film, which had a hefty production budget of $168 million, excluding extensive marketing costs, managed to collect only $25.6 million in the United States and Canada from Thursday night through Sunday. Analysts predicted an additional $5.4 million on Monday, bringing the holiday-weekend total to an estimated $31 million. This performance marks the worst Memorial Day weekend result in 43 years, adjusted for inflation, since “Bustin’ Loose” garnered $24 million in 1981. For context, the pandemic-affected year of 2020 is generally excluded from such records.

The previous installment in the franchise, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” fared much better, earning $45.4 million in 2015, equivalent to about $61 million today, and it did so without the advantage of a holiday weekend. The dismal performance of “Furiosa” was unexpected, especially considering the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and its exceptional reviews.

Despite its strong critical reception, “Furiosa” struggled to secure the top spot at the box office. Analysts speculated that Sony’s “Garfield,” despite poor reviews and a $60 million budget, could edge ahead or possibly tie with “Furiosa.” Sony later declared victory, projecting “Garfield” to lead with $31.8 million in ticket sales. They emphasized the potential for a prolonged theatrical run, citing the beginning of summer holidays.

Several theories have emerged to explain the underwhelming turnout for “Furiosa.” Warner Bros. has not commented, but industry insiders have speculated that Anya Taylor-Joy, who stars as Furiosa, might not have the same box office draw as Charlize Theron, who originally played the role. Taylor-Joy, though acclaimed for her roles in “The Witch” and “The Queen’s Gambit,” has not previously led a big-budget summer film.

Additionally, the film’s release timing might have played a role. Some industry executives suggested that “Furiosa” was released too soon after the visually similar “Dune: Part Two,” which performed well in March. Conversely, it might have been released too long after “Fury Road,” resulting in a cooled fan base.

Analysts have noted a broader lack of momentum at the box office. Hollywood’s summer season began with a disappointing start, as “The Fall Guy” opened to just $28 million, the lowest summer kickoff since 1995. The April box office also suffered due to a lack of releases, a consequence of lingering effects from union strikes in 2023.

Despite the current downturn, some remain optimistic, noting that upcoming releases such as “Inside Out 2,” “Despicable Me 4,” and “Deadpool & Wolverine” could revitalize the box office in June and July. Successful performances from these films could help restore the perception of movie theaters as a vital and relevant component of the entertainment industry.

For now, theaters in the U.S. and Canada are projected to have sold around $125 million in tickets over the weekend, a 40 percent decline from last year. Year-to-date ticket sales stand at $2.6 billion, down 22 percent from the same period in the previous year. However, with a slate of promising sequels on the horizon, there is still hope for a turnaround in the summer box office.