Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa in 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga'
(Warner Bros.)

What the Box Office Discourse Gets Wrong About ‘Furiosa’

The film discourse was discoursing over the weekend in response to headlines proclaiming Memorial Day 2024 the worst Memorial Day weekend at the box office in decades. While journalists and cinephiles argued over who or what is to blame for low turnout, almost everyone failed to acknowledge Furiosa‘s victory.

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There were two major movie releases over the holiday weekend: Garfield, the new animated film adaptation of the beloved comic strip featuring lasagna-hater Chris Pratt as the voice of the eponymous cat. And Furiosa, George Miller’s long-awaited follow up to Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the eponymous hero. The latter grossed $32 million in its four-day opening with Garfield trailing in second with $31.1 million—these are not impressive numbers for major studio films released on a normal weekend, which makes them especially disappointing numbers for a holiday weekend. But according to headlines, Furiosa‘s opening weekend might as well be a harbinger of the apocalypse, the movie industry’s version of a second Trump presidency: it was (checks google) disastrous, a dud, bleak, a total flop.

Despite what the internet thinks, two things can be true at once: Yes, Furiosa underperformed at the box office, which experienced unusually low turnout for a holiday weekend. Furiosa is also the first film in the Mad Max franchise to open at number one. Furiosa grossed less than Fury Road in its opening weekend, even with a four-day holiday, but people seem to have forgotten that Fury Road wasn’t a massive box office hit, either. Despite louder and more consistent word-of-mouth bolstered by a buzzy world premiere at Cannes, Fury Road opened in second place—behind Pitch Perfect 2, of all things. Furiosa also debuted at Cannes, but the reception was muted in comparison to its predecessor, and—this is boring, right? The analytical nitpicking, comparing and contrasting, breaking down the differences in release strategies …

There are a lot of reasons why Furiosa—and, yes, Garfield—underperformed at the box office, and you’ve heard some version of most of them before. Movie tickets are too expensive now, Hollywood tightened its purse strings after last year’s labor strikes, the theatrical window is too short now, marketing ain’t what it used to be, et al. The movie business has always been in one kind of danger or another, for as long as there have been movies. And for as long as there have been people, we have always felt compelled to focus on negativity; anger is more intoxicating than joy and far easier to come by.

What if, instead of scaremongering with headlines proclaiming Memorial Day weekend 2024 the worst, most disastrous Memorial Day weekend for movies since 1984, we took a different perspective? Furiosa Is the First Mad Max Movie To Open in First Place. Furiosa Emerges Victorious at Weekend Box Office. Furiosa Is a Massive Accomplishment for George Miller and Hollywood. I guess these headlines aren’t as engaging as Furiosa Is the Most Baffling Flop Since the McDonald’s Pizza. (Okay, I know these headlines aren’t as engaging. It’s a big part of my job to know that.)

But Furiosa is a miracle. George Miller made perhaps the greatest action film of all time when he made Fury Road, and Furiosa is just as great if not slightly better (your mileage will certainly vary). That Miller pulled this—a wildly visionary, intricately planned action film with stunning cinematography, impeccable stunt and action choreography, and a beating, bloody heart for an engine—off not once, but twice is not something we should ignore. Furiosa is a massive achievement in filmmaking, visual storytelling, and art. Maybe it doesn’t seem quite as impressive because we live in a world where Fury Road exists, but here’s the thing: it’s impossible to capture lightning in a bottle and Miller did it twice.

Whatever happens at the box office for the rest of its run, Furiosa is an accomplishment. We’ll be talking about it for years, perhaps until Miller releases the next chapter in the Mad Max saga. Meanwhile, we won’t hear about the 2024 Memorial Day weekend box office again until the next time there’s a bad Memorial Day weekend for movies. If you need more perspective, take this: Furiosa had the lowest four-day Memorial Day weekend opening since Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. And the only reason I know that is because Temple of Doom‘s opening weekend is being mentioned in articles again for the first time in decades, as a point of comparison for Furiosa.

I don’t know how we’ll view Furiosa 40 years from now, whether it’ll be seen as superior to or just as good as Fury Road, or if Miller’s next film will have overshadowed it. I do know that we won’t be talking about how much money it made in its opening weekend.


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Author
Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.