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The Wasteland Unlike to Happen After Furiosa Box Office

The Wasteland Unlike to Happen After Furiosa Box Office

Forty-five years after George Miller introduced audiences to Mad Max, the auteur may have finally hit the end of the road through the post-apocalyptic wasteland unless he finds some high-octane gasoline soon.

The revered filmmaker’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga bowed to a disappointing $32 million domestically for the four-day Memorial Day weekend and $32.8 million overseas, diminishing hopes for Mad Max: The Wasteland, another Max installment Miller has been toying with for years.

Miller and Nico Lathouris wrote the scripts for both The Wasteland and Furiosa as part of the development process of Mad Max: Fury Road, the 2015 Warner Bros. film that became a surprise awards season juggernaut, winning six Oscars, and which became an instant action classic. The Wasteland would follow Max Rockatansky in the year before Fury Road, and is said to involve a young mother — and (naturally) include plenty of action. 

In recent weeks, Miller has acknowledged much was hinging on Furiosa in terms of the possibility of The Wasteland. “I’ll definitely wait to see how this [Furiosa] goes, before we even think about it,” Miller told journalists May 16, the morning after the dystopian action-adventure played at the Cannes Film Festival to a 7-minute standing ovation. Sources agree that Wasteland’s fate is complicated by Furiosa‘s box office, but stress it wasn’t even in development. For its part, Warners — where Miller is a beloved figure — says it is incredibly proud of Furiosa.

The reaction from moviegoers is likely as positive as Miller hoped; it boasts a 90 percent positive audience score rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned a B+ Cinemascore. But in a troubling and unexpected twist, far fewer females and younger male adults showed up than came out for Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road nine years ago.

On Fury Road’s opening weekend, the split was 60 percent male to 40 percent, according to sources with access to exit surveys conducted by PostTrak. But Furiosa’s audience was 71 percent male and 29 percent female, a worrisome decline and a startling number for a feature marketed as a female-driven vehicle. And the 18-24 age group, who are the most frequent moviegoers, plummeted from 31 percent for Fury Road to 21 percent for Furiosa.

Observers note that Fury Road aside, the male-fueled Mad Max series has always catered to a somewhat niche audience. The first three films, starring Mel Gibson, grossed less than $70 million combined.

“IP like Mad Max and Ghostbusters is old, and they have the fans they’re going to have,” says one theater chain executive. “If studios can budget to that, they might make some decent money.”

Talk of making Miller’s next Mad Max film could resurface if Furiosa gets a major tune up and enjoys a road trip down the box office highway, as Fury Road did thanks to a strong multiplier. But many veteran box office pundits are doubtful whether such a recovery is possible, with one rival studio saying it could have a hard time getting past $90 million domestically.

Fury Road, which successfully rebooted the franchise by recasting Gibson with Tom Hardy and introducing Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, opened to $45.3 million domestically on its way to grossing$ 379.4 million worldwide — a juggernaut by the standards of the franchise, and a modest hit by Hollywood standards considering it had a net budget of at least $157 million before marketing. Still, it had an outsized cultural impact, enough for the previous regime at Warner Bros. to greenlight Furiosa, as it seemed the studio had a revitalized franchise on its hands, and it would be a way of honoring Miller and the 45-year anniversary of Mad Max. Miller, who remains a beloved figure within the studio, doesn’t like to use visual effects, which pushes up production costs.  

Miller opted not to bring back Theron, as he felt that de-aging technology utilized in films such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman was distracting to audiences. (Theron, for her part, was sad not to return, despite her grueling experience shooting the first one.) Instead, Miller cast Anya Taylor-Joy as a younger version of Theron’s titular character, and added Chris Hemsworth as a warlord. Furiosa is also a Mad Max movie without Mad Max (save for a small cameo).  

“I think Furiosa suffered without Charlize. People who see the movie love it. The problem is getting them into theaters. She would have been able to do that,” says one studio insider.

Adds a veteran Hollywood executive, “Fury Road was an outlier in the series. It also had a hot young star and a huge female star. Nine years later, it had neither.”

Furiosa caps a May that will go down in infamy in box office lore. Due to the strikes, mega-tentpoles that have come to define summer were delayed, prompting moviegoing overall to plummet and theater chains hoping for a better 2025 (just survive til ’25 has become a mantra for studios and theater owners). Miller’s film was never intended to be an all-audience tentpole that anchors Memorial Day — last year, The Little Mermaid debuted to $118 million — but like other recent titles, it still came in well behind tracking predictions of $40 to $45 million.

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Wall Street and Hollywood knew this year was going to be tough, and say declarations that theatrical is over are overblown.

“Let’s see what happens next year with Mission: Impossible and in 2026 with the next Star Wars movie,” says box office analyst Eric Handler of Roth Capital.

All eyes are now on June’s Inside Out 2 and July’s Despicable Me 4 and Deadpool & Wolverine to energize the marketplace and help other films in the process.

“This fever will hopefully break in June and July with an over performance by at least one of the high-profile films to get the wind back in the sails of the box office,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.

As for Furiosa, it has the upcoming weekend to itself and will still be playing in Imax and premium large-format screens, which ponied up a significant portion of the opening weekend gross. Then, it will have to contend with another vehicle and gun-heavy feature, Sony’s Bad Boys: Ride or Die.

—James Hibberd contributed to this story.

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