Furiosa’s Box Office Flop Casts a Shadow on Both the Franchise and the State of This Year’s Cinema

On a promising weekend, both Furiosa and The Garfield Movie failed to meet expectations.

a scene from furiosa
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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga had a disappointing opening weekend. The expectations were high (Memorial Day weekend is usually very lucrative for movie theaters). However, the results were underwhelming, which says a lot about the future of the Mad Max franchise–but also about the current state of Hollywood blockbusters and what we can expect for the rest of the year.

The numbers. At the time of publication, the final figures hadn’t been released yet, but Furiosa was expected to bring in approximately $31 million in the U.S. (well below the projected $40 million) and $33.3 million internationally, totaling just under $60 million. With a budget of $168 million, this spells bad news for Warner Bros. In fact, it was the worst Memorial Day weekend box office in 29 years (not counting pandemic years).

Not written in stone yet. On the other hand, this clearly isn’t a complete disaster, and Furiosa could end up becoming one of those movies that gain traction through word of mouth (let’s not forget how Elemental was considered a flop in its first weeks, before becoming Disney’s most profitable film of the year). The production was favorably reviewed following a wonderful reception at Cannes.

However, major studios are showing little patience towards movies whose opening weekends aren’t spectacular, quickly sending them to streaming, as was the case of the fantastic The Specialist.

The future of the franchise. For now, no new sequels are expected, despite Warner Bros.’ obvious desire to continue milking a franchise that’s seen relatively few additions in its 45-year history: five films, a comic, a video game–and hordes of imitators. Now, this box office flop might have deflated the chances of a new installment for a franchise that has always been led by George Miller–who is now 79. Before the release, Miller mentioned he would like to see a new video game, preferably directed by Hideo Kojima, a self-proclaimed fan of the series.

The precedent of Fury Road. Furiosa’s predecessor, Mad Max: Fury Road, didn’t initially crush the box office either. That’s an example of a film that gained fans and praise over time: After a modest $45 million opening, it eventually grossed $380 million, a narrow profit margin for a budget of approximately $150 million. Furiosa, however, is a prequel–a type of spinoff usually considered to appeal mainly to fans, and unlikely to attract a new audience. This seems to have been the case here. Perhaps the A Mad Max Saga part of the title was too reminiscent of the A Star Wars Story from films like Solo, another seemingly surefire prequel that flopped.

A lackluster summer movie season. Furiosa’s poor performance is being cited as a sign of the death of the Hollywood blockbuster. While that may be an exaggeration, it’s true that in a year without the nearly foolproof Marvel productions (except for Deadpool & Wolverine) or any Star Wars films, the summer movie season is looking somewhat bleak, with titles such as Despicable Me 4, Inside Out 2, Twisters, and A Quiet Place: Day One.

Image | Warner

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