Box Office Will Be Barely Breathing This Summer

The domestic box office at $2 billion currently this year is dragging 21% behind the same January-April spread last year, and when Universal's The Fall Guy commences the hot moviegoing season this Friday with a hopeful $35M, expect summer to drag some more. That's because the lack of product due to the actors strike has made a backloaded May-through-Labor Day frame in what will be lucky -- lucky -- to hit $3 billion. That's a $1 billion, or 27%, less than last summer's $4.09 billion, per Comscore. More bad news about summer: It's not going to catch up the year any more against 2023.

Essentially, expect less and hope for more. Remember, no one saw Barbenheimer or Sound of Freedom coming last summer, and that trio collectively minted $1.15 billion. If anything, summer 2024 is more about getting moviegoers back into the habit of moviegoing than breaking any records.

The biggest opening of the year could lie outside summer in Warner Bros.' "Beetlejuice Beetlejuice." Several distribution insiders are still projecting a $8 billion domestic final box office for 2024, $1 billion off from 2023's $9B. However, instead of summer repping 45% of the total year, which was the case in 2023 -- it looks to be around 38%, a share roughly on par with pre-pandemic summers. That means there's more moviegoing in the off-season to go around. I mean, we could see the biggest opening of the year in September -- or even summer, if you want to extend it past Labor Day to September 6-8 -- in Warner Bros.' long-awaited Tim Burton-Michael Keaton sequel Beetlejuice Beetlejuice 2024 A.D. It very un-shockingly could deliver a $100M+ opening, possibly toppling the month's all-time biggest opener, It, from Warner's New Line, which debuted to $123.4M in 2017. If the Avengers movies could jumpstart summer early in late-April, why can't Beetlejuice Beetlejuice extend it?

No ding against Fall Guy's prospects this weekend, and the expectation is that Ryan Gosling of it all will continue to draw women in upcoming weeks, but there's no way for that movie to make up any ground compared to last year's first weekend of summer. That totaled $160M, 74% from the first weekend of Disney/Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.

"On paper, this summer's lineup has a lot of appeal to moviegoers and, though it might not be a financial analyst's dream, for movie fans there is much to celebrate," Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

Breaking down the months, May will be absent a $100M-plus opening, neither in this coming weekend nor Memorial Day weekend. There are notable sleeper tentpoles abounding, i.e. 20th Century Studios' Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (>$50M opening on May 10) and John Krasinski's Ryan Reynolds all-audience imaginary friend feature, IF ($40M+ projection on May 17). However, some are expecting -- gulp -- a coin toss between Sony/Alcon Entertainment's Garfield and Warner Bros/Village Roadshow's Max Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga in the $30M+ 4-day range over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-27. The popular branding of Garfield shouldn't be underestimated, but the 2004 movie was an also-ran at the box office with a $21.7M opening and a $75.3M domestic final. Both hit three-week tracking last week, and in Warner Bros.' defense, its campaign doesn't fire up until Furiosa's world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15. Also, Furiosa will have Imax working in its favor. While Anya Taylor-Joy won awards and rave reviews for her turn in Netflix's The Queen's Gambit during Covid, Furiosa arguably is the first tentpole she's carrying largely on her shoulders. Mad Max: Fury Road also blasted off at Cannes in 2015 and went on to win six Oscars, debuting to $45.4M stateside and doing a 3.3x multiple with a finale of $154.2M. The hope is that Furiosa can emulate that.

One of the four movies expected to work this summer is Disney/Pixar's Inside Out 2, which opens over Father's Day weekend, June 14-16. From the hysterical and heartwarming footage shown at CinemaCon, the sequel returns Pixar to the charm and humor it is beloved for. The pic could be the first $100M opening of 2024. How's that? Absence makes the heart grow fonder for Pixar fans: There was a 14-year sequel gap between 2004's The Incredibles and 2018's Incredibles 2, with their respective U.S/Canada openings skyrocketing from $70.4M to $182.6M. It's been nine years since Inside Out, which debuted at $90.4M back in 2015 and went on to gross $356.9M; the sky's the limit with Part 2 here.

The other goodie that month is Sony's Bad Boys: Ride or Die on June 6. Six-week projection tracking firm Quorum has it at a $60M start, which is on par with the 3-day of the 2020 second sequel Bad Boys for Life ($62.5M).

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