It’s a bit of a wasteland out there for theaters this summer, as Memorial Day weekend is closing out a very underwhelming May on a down note. Warner Bros.’ “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is projected to open well short of the industry’s prior estimates for a $40 million-plus bow over the four-day window. The high-budget action epic is practically neck-and-neck for first place over Sony’s animated adaptation “The Garfield Movie” on domestic charts.

The fireball “Mad Max” prequel sputtered to $10.2 million from 3,804 locations across Friday and preview screenings. It’s got Imax and other premium large-format auditoriums to bolster its ticket sales, too. It’s another tough underperformance this summer. The film’s 2015 predecessor “Mad Max: Fury Road” got to $16 million in its opening day. That movie also put together an impressive awards season run and got canonized by action genre fans. Even so, “Furiosa” seems unable to spin much box office traction off of the stellar reputation of its predecessor, much like character-based spinoffs of recent years like Pixar’s “Lightyear” and Disney’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

“Fury Road” wasn’t seen as a dominant box office force upon its debut either, but the film managed to leg out an impressive 3.38x multiplier off of its $45 million domestic opening weekend. It finished with $153 million in North America and $369 million worldwide. The dream for the R-rated epic “Furiosa” would be to long-haul it like that, especially since it carries a $168 million production budget before marketing and distribution spends.

Reviews have been stellar, though not quite as superlative as the nods “Fury Road” got. Early audiences like it about the same, with audience survey firm Cinema Score turning in a matching “B+” grade. The buzz is solid, but the average film’s staying power in theaters generally isn’t what it was 10 years ago. And this is a tough debut to swallow for exhibitors, who usually get a boost to their business on Memorial Day weekend. Sans COVID lockdown periods, the openings over the past six years have included “Top Gun: Maverick,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and the aforementioned “Solo” — all of which grossed more than $100 million over the four-day frame. No title this week will even sniff half of that.

Trading the compact momentum of “Fury Road” for a sweeping, decades-spanning revenge epic, “Furiosa” sees Anya Taylor-Joy playing the heroine originated by Charlize Theron, as the warrior seeks revenge against the demented Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) for slaying her mother and selling her into slavery. Series mastermind George Miller returns to direct.

Meanwhile, Garfield may usually hate Mondays, but he’ll gladly grab some extra ticket sales through the Memorial Day holiday. The animated film earned $8.4 million across Friday and Thursday previews from 4,035 locations. “Furiosa” has most of the premium large-format real estate, but “Garfield,” which was financed by Alcon and animated by DNEG, has some showtimes, too, to boost its revenue.

“The Garfield Movie” is looking at an opening north of $31 million over the four-day frame, giving it a good shot at beating out “Furiosa” for the top slot on domestic charts. It’s a respectable result for the animated production, which comes with a $60 million production price tag. The film has already opened in several international territories and earned more than $50 million. Critics didn’t like “Garfield.” Audiences are much more positive, with a “B+” grade on Cinema Score, though those still aren’t the crowd-pleasing raves that family-friendly fare can garner.

Chris Pratt voices the Sunday funnies’ most iconic feline in the animated feature, which sees Garfield ditch munching lasagna and lazing about for an adventure with his long-lost father (Samuel L. Jackson). Mark Dindal directs.

Falling to third place, Paramount’s imaginary friends adventure “IF” is projecting $16 million through Sunday and $20.7 million over the four-day frame — a modest drop of 53%, with the competition for families from “Garfield” not making a devastating dent. Without much success internationally though, the John Krasinski-directed film will have trouble salvaging its underwhelming domestic debut last weekend. The North American total should pass $60 million through Sunday.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is in fourth after earning $3.4 million on Friday, down 50% from its $6.8 million last Friday. Disney’s sci-fi epic should reach $125 million domestic through Sunday, a solid result alongside its overseas performance.

“The Fall Guy” is now in fifth place, projecting about $7.3 million over the four-day frame to push its domestic sum beyond $73 million. Now in its fourth weekend in theaters, the David Leitch-directed action feature is already available to watch on premium video-on-demand. Universal is wont to put together a quick digital turnaround for titles that have proved less-than-splashy. Worldwide grosses for the Ryan Gosling film have now passed $130 million, still not justifying its $140 million production budget.

Also opening this weekend, Angel Studios is returning to theaters with “Sight,” a biopic about an immigrant eye surgeon’s professional research and Christian faith that ends with a direct address to the audience and a QR code, much like the studio’s box office smash “Sound of Freedom” did last summer. Competitors are projecting “Sight,” which stars Terry Chen and Greg Kinnear and was directed by Andrew Hyatt, for roughly $3.6 million over the four-day frame. Reviews are mixed, but audiences turned in a shining “A” grade on Cinema Score.



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