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Despite Furiosa's stalled start, the summer box office is not collapsing (at least, not yet)

Yes, Furiosa didn't break records - but that isn't a sign that disaster is right around the corner

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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If the common insider wisdom is to be believed, the movie industry is in dire straits because Furiosa underperformed at the box office in its opening weekend — an event that singularly heralds a dire summer season in 2024 that lacks the kind of no-lose back-to-back blockbusters that audiences head to the theaters in suitable numbers to see. Since Furiosa made just $32.3 million in its opening weekend, there have been countless expressions of concern — both genuine and, shall we say, somewhat less-so — surrounding the question of just how bad this summer is going to be for theater owners, studios, and audiences alike, all with the same takeaway: everything is awful.

While I am not going to downplay the very real probability that lower foot traffic at theaters this summer is going to hurt theater owners and, by extension, the movie industry, I do want to suggest that calmer heads need to be prevailing right now — and that, while summer 2024 isn’t going to be an easy one for theaters and studios, it might be an instructional one worth paying attention to, instead.

Furiosa isn’t the problem

While I get that Furiosa underperformed in its opening weekend, in terms of box office take, it’s worth pushing back at the notion that the movie bombed entirely. It made $32.3 million across the four-day holiday weekend domestically, which was less than $10m short of the $40m that it was expected to make. This arguably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given that female-led action movies have traditionally struggled at the box office — in the past few years, think of the fates of The Marvels, The 355, Birds of Prey, Terminator: Dark Fate, and more. To double down on the “maybe we should have expected this,” it’s worth remembering that Mad Max: Fury Road itself didn’t top the charts on its own first weekend; it was beaten back into second place by Pitch Perfect 2.

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s also worth noting that the success of Fury Road wasn’t about its opening weekend, but what followed: it was a movie that grew in word of mouth as it stayed in theaters, and continued to find audiences even after it went to home release. There’s absolutely no reason that the same can’t be true for Furiosa, and that the movie might not even end up outperforming Fury Road by the time all is over and done. Especially because…

2024 was always going to be a down year

Thanks to the 2023 Actors’ Strike and Writers’ Strike, studios are at a loss when it comes to movie releases this year, especially the bigger movies: a number of big-ticket releases initially earmarked for this summer have been pushed out until next year, including Marvel’s Captain America: Brave New World and Thunderbolts*. This is a big deal on a couple of levels — firstly, it means that theaters were already going to be struggling this year having lost a number of anticipated draws, and secondly, it means that the movies that did make it to the multiplex are now faced with perhaps unfair expectations to perform that they’re not able to handle.

In the 2024 that was originally planned, pre-strike, Furiosa would have been seen as a mid-level release expected to perform… well, probably as well as it’s currently doing in theaters, really, while Captain America or something similar raked in the big bucks. There seems to be a belief on the part of some industry watchers that the movie business works on the same basis as nature abhorring a vacuum, and that audiences would just go see whatever is playing, but that’s never been the case. Instead of complaining that every movie isn’t hitting a certain box office number just because other movies could have, perhaps it’s okay to just accept that the strikes complicated things and take the loss for once.

There are lessons to be learned

What can we take from this slow summer of cinema that isn’t fear mongering or panicked doom-saying? It’s a question that we’ll be able to answer far more easily a couple of months from now, but there’s something to be said for theaters (and studios) looking to diversify their offerings to find more things to bring audiences in; I’m spoiled where I live, in a city with theaters showing Evil Dead marathons and classic Mad Maxes in addition to what’s currently on release, but also theaters bringing smaller, independent movies to the screen for us to enjoy. Wouldn’t it be great if the summer didn’t rely on just a handful of big movies to make it a success or failure? Just imagine!

Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

We should appreciate taking a breath and looking at the bigger picture some more, as well; appreciating the context of things to get a better sense of what’s actually going on, and not simply leaping to the immediate (almost entirely overdramatic) conclusion in the heat of the moment — but this one is unlikely at best; it’s a far bigger problem than simply affecting people watching the movie business.

This is, in part, my way of saying that, if Deadpool and Wolverine doesn’t earn the same amount of money as, say, Avengers: Endgame, that’s not a sign that Marvel is collapsing; it’s an R-rated movie! It’s almost guaranteed to make less, given that a core section of the Marvel audience won’t be able to see it. Let's just plan ahead to not lose our minds, just in case.

And finally, let’s add one more takeaway, while we’re at it: perhaps more people should go see Furiosa while it’s in theaters. Think of it as the second big sand-filled movie of the year, after Dune Part Two…

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in theaters now - if you got confused (or haven't got there yet), we have a guide to all the big questions with that ending. Get more with articles on Furiosa's new ride, an itinerary on how (and where) to watch all the Mad Max movies in chronological or release order, and the Mad Max movies' entire timeline explained.

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