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US box office on track for worst Memorial Day weekend since 1995


The summer movie season typically starts with a bang during the month of May and especially during Memorial Day weekend.

This year it’s a whimper.

According to Comscore data provided to CNN, movie ticket sales over the Memorial Day weekend (Friday through Monday) are estimated at $128.3 million. That’s down from last year’s Memorial Day weekend, which posted just under $205 million in gross receipts, and it’s well below 2013’s record-breaking holiday, when “Fast & Furious 6” took the weekend to $314.3 million in receipts. floated.

In fact, the U.S. box office is on track to have its lowest Memorial Day weekend gross since 1995’s $117.1 million when “Casper” hit screens — and that’s not even taking inflation into account.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the numbers coming out this weekend are nothing to write home about,” Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN in an interview.

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” was estimated as the No. 1 movie with $32 million in sales this weekend.

The tepid Memorial Day weekend continues a lukewarm start to the summer box office, a movie season still reeling from the fallout from last year’s Hollywood strikes.

Combined with production delays — the aftershocks of the months-long Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes still reverberating through the studios — the season that has historically attracted the largest moviegoing audiences is off to a rocky start, potentially hurting annual moviegoers . box office totals for 2024.

“Summer is the most important film season of the year, accounting for almost 40% of total annual domestic revenue on average, so just like summer, so goes the year,” Degarabedian said.

Last summer, the blockbusters “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” together added nearly $1 billion to the domestic box office, according to Comscore data. But this year, the studios are betting on a host of mid-range sequels and prequels as well as family-oriented animated films to fill the Barbenheimer-shaped hole, including “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” “Bad Boys: Ride.” or die” and “Inside Out 2.”

“Barring some major overperformance, it appears that box office revenues this summer will be down 20% to 25% from last year between May and August,” said analyst Shawn Robbins, founder and owner of Box Office Theory.

While there was no Marvel movie opening in May and no mega-blockbuster before Memorial Day, there may still be a solid pipeline of films this year, Degarabarian said.

“We now have to count on the films coming out in June and July to really deliver – and there are some big ones on the horizon,” he said, noting “Despicable Me 4,” “Inside- Out 2” and “Deadpool. & Wolverine.”

Through 2020, the period between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day Monday can be counted on to generate more than $4 billion in domestic revenue, according to Comscore data. The summer of 2023 saw the first post-pandemic summer worth $4 billion.

Powered by the success of ‘Sound of Freedom’, ‘Oppenheimer,and the record-breaking $155 million “Barbie” opening weekend, summer 2023, grossed $4.09 billion, up 19.2% from the previous year.

“Barbie” was distributed by Warner Bros., owned by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.

Opening weekends of more than $100 million are typically only seen in intellectual property action films like Star Wars films and superhero films, as well as animated family films like “The Incredibles 2” and “Finding Dory.” So far this year, no film has crossed that threshold.

“Without a Marvel movie offering an opening weekend of over $100 million to kickstart the momentum, this summer will have to make up ground in June and July,” says Degarabedian, adding that this summer has been a “late bloomer” so far. has been. .”

Two films that analysts say could cross the $100 million threshold this summer are “Deadpool & Wolverine” and “Inside Out 2,” both of which are distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

The studio’s first major release in 2024 under the “Disney” flagship will be “Inside Out 2,” an anomaly for the company and the film industry, according to Daniel Loria, editor-in-chief of Box Office Pro, which sells and shows TimeS data from thousands of movie theaters in the United States. (Disney-owned 20th Century Entertainment released its first film of the year, “The First Omen,” in April.)

“I can’t think of any other year where a studio so important to this industry is absent for the entire first half of the year,” Loria told CNN, adding that this is in large part due to production delays causing schedule shifts through months of back and forth between studios, the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union. “We tend to overemphasize the impact of Hollywood’s 2023 labor strikes at the box office, but it’s hard not to mention this when you look at the number of releases hitting theaters in the first half of the year have been published by major studios.”

Disney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Loria also emphasized that Disney’s summer offerings, from both the Pixar and Marvel divisions, will be critical to how the 2024 box office performs overall.

According to Box Office Pro pre-sales data, “Inside Out 2” is expected to debut somewhere between $80 million and $100 million. Pixar’s offerings have fallen flat in recent years; 2022’s ‘Lightyear’ debuted domestically to $50.5 million, while 2023’s ‘Elemental’ earned $29.6 million in its opening weekend.

Meanwhile, “Deadpool & Wolverine,” the only Marvel release this summer, is expected to reignite audiences’ enthusiasm after “The Marvels” disappointed last November with a $47 million opening weekend.

Last week, ticket seller Fandango announced that “Deadpool & Wolverine” had broken the company’s 2024 record for best first-day ticket presales, beating “Dune: Part Two.” The film also had the best first day of ticket sales for an R-rated film in Fandango’s 24-year history, the company told CNN.

“Deadpool & Wolverine has the potential to be the second film (after 2021’s “Spiderman: No Way Home”) to earn a $200 million opening weekend of the post-pandemic era,” Loria said. “We’re still two months away, but if pre-sales and awareness continue at this pace, we think the film could make between $170 million and $210 million in theaters.”

“Despicable Me 4” and “Inside Out 2” “look particularly strong, and ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ will undoubtedly be the top movie of the summer,” Degarabedian said.

Industry experts agree that the 2024 box office has been sluggish so far, but remain hopeful that the box office can recover by the end of the year and beyond.

“Box office revenues are down largely due to the large gaps between highly attractive releases in the first half of the year,” Robbins said. “That has been the status quo in the post-pandemic era for many reasons, mostly beyond the control of theatrical exhibitions. The industry only had a short window between the impact of COVID production delays, followed by last year’s writers and actors strikes.”

Robbins added that there is still time for strong titles to fill the gap in the second half of the year, including September’s ‘Beetlejuice Beetlejuice’ and ‘Transformers One’ and October’s ‘Joker: Folie à Deux’.

“Movie habits have changed dramatically since the pandemic, but we continue to see great enthusiasm when it comes to the theater experience,” said Loria. “The data is clear that audiences can still support the studio tentpole model – but identifying the films that will be big hits remains as difficult to predict as it has ever been.”

Box Office Pro predicts that the 2024 box office will gross $8.2 billion, down about 10% from last year’s $9 billion. Domestic revenues for 2023 were the highest since the pandemic, but it still fell short of pre-pandemic annual revenue by about $2 billion, according to Comscore.