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'Furiosa' and 'Garfield' flop over Memorial Day weekend

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The summer box office season continued its slow start over Memorial Day weekend, hitting a near 30-year low due to poor performances from headliners "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" and the Chris Pratt-voiced "The Garfield Movie."

"Garfield" finished with $31.1 million over the four-day weekend, according to a Comscore estimate on Monday, while "Furiosa" pulled in $32 million — earning the latter the dubious distinction of the lowest-grossing opening for a Memorial Day No. 1 film in 29 years, excluding 2020, when theaters were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. (In 1995, "Casper" opened with $22 million for the holiday weekend, not adjusted for inflation, over its first four days.) Final figures will be released later this week.

The race to No. 1 this weekend was tight, or at least it seemed that way. Both Warner Bros. and Sony said Sunday that their films ("Furiosa" and "Garfield," respectively) had topped the box office, though both studios waited until Monday to share full earnings. Early estimates Sunday had both films finishing between $30 million to $33 million.

It's a bit of a bummer for box office enthusiasts. Memorial Day weekend typically sees big winners, including the record-setting $160 million debut of "Top Gun: Maverick" in 2022 and the 2023 success of the live-action "Little Mermaid," which earned $118 million.

Critics and industry insiders listed a number of reasons for the slow holiday weekend this year. "Furiosa," a critically acclaimed film in the Mad Max franchise, may have performed poorly because it's a prequel to "Mad Max: Fury Road," which fetched $45.4 million at the box office during its opening weekend in May 2015. ("Pitch Perfect 2" finished at No. 1 that weekend.) And it might be a sign of a slower 2024 box office in general. Other big-name films released earlier this spring, such as John Krasinski's "IF" and "The Fall Guy," starring Ryan Gosling, debuted to lowly numbers of $33.7 million and $27.7 million, respectively, according to Box Office Mojo.

The rise of streaming and the pandemic's shift toward early digital on-demand releases may have changed viewer habits, too. Instead of hitting your local theater to see a film, a typical moviegoer might wait for the film to be released on digital on-demand or streaming. (For example, "The Fall Guy" debuted in U.S. theaters on May 3, and you can already rent it through Apple TV for $19.99.)

In recent years, some theater chains, such as Cineworld and Alamo Drafthouse, have fallen into bankruptcy over box office woes. Meanwhile, AMC, the world's largest theater chain, has turned to viral branded popcorn buckets and event films, such as Taylor Swift's Eras Tour concert movie last fall, to keep itself afloat amid the troubling times at the box office.

Still, some recent big weekends show that audiences are still out there when the right movie comes along. "Dune: Part Two" surpassed expectations, with an $81.5 million opening in March. And you can't forget summer 2023's double whammy of "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer," which grossed nearly $250 million combined domestically in their opening weekends.

Many eyes are looking toward the debut of "Deadpool & Wolverine" — the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman — in July as a potential box office draw as the film's presale numbers have already shattered a record for advance ticket sales for AMC.

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