The Movies That Could Still Save the Summer Box Office After Furiosa Misfires

May has been a particularly bad kickoff to the summer movie season. But is help on the way?

Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson in Deadpool & Wolverine
Photo: Marvel Studios

So you might have heard: despite being a fantastic spectacle and exactly what you want out of a summer post-apocalyptic race into the Wasteland, Furiosa had a rough opening weekend. Like worst opening weekend for a Memorial Day chart-topper since 1984 “rough.” And a mere four days after this stumble began, the debate’s already arisen on whether this was a one-off disappointment due to being a recast prequel movie, or if it’s a sign of larger systemic issues in the industry.

Either way, it’s part of a May which has sent a chill down studios’ spines. Generally considered the launchpad for the summer movie season, May is the month that for 20 years has usually begun with superhero movies (and for the last 10 non-pandemic years, Marvel Studios ones at that) and big returns. Instead the biggest success so far has been Disney/20th Century Studios’ Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, which as of press time is on the verge of crossing $300 million globally. That’s a long way from last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which opened to $118 million on May 5, 2023 and went on to earn $846 million worldwide. But when compared to The Fall Guy, a movie that opened in the same weekend frame this year and is already on streaming PVOD following a bleak total of $146 million in its first three weeks, that looks downright rosy.

So yes, summer 2024 is off to a grim start, and with last year’s labor strikes pausing production for six months, there isn’t a lot of help on the way… but there is still some coming. Theoretically. So what movies might stand as the biggest bellwethers to determine the health and viability of the box office going forward? Well…

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys for Life
Sony Pictures

Bad Boys: Ride or Die

Release Date: June 7

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As the Bad Boys franchise reaches its statesman years when compared to many of its IP peers, it has become the unlikely clutch player the industry turns to for the occasional silver lining. In January 2020, Bad Boys for Life became the unlikely biggest hit of that year since it was also 2020’s only blockbuster before the COVID pandemic essentially shut theaters down for more than a year. The world obviously changed a lot since then, including for the Bad Boys movies’ biggest star, Will Smith, a newly minted Oscar winner who was also banned from appearing at the Oscars for more than a decade.

Nonetheless, there will be a lot of goodwill in the industry and press if next month’s Bad Boys: Ride or Die can match the third film’s global cume of $426.5 million. To be honest, we suspect the target audience for these movies are less precious about bad awards shows publicity, and Smith and Martin Lawrence have an aging but dedicated fanbase. If they show up in similar numbers in the balmy weather of June as they did in frigid January and February (and all before being cut short by a pandemic), that would be a very promising sign for a studio system still banking on sequels with aging stars.

Inside Out 2
Disney / Pixar

Inside Out 2

Release Date: June 14

Another big sequel next month is a bellwether for more than just the summer. Ever since the COVID pandemic, the once seemingly indestructible Pixar Animation Studios has been reeling. We’d argue this is due to mistakes they didn’t commit—such as Disney insisting on putting every Pixar movie onto Disney+ for years, including in spring 2022 when theatrical moviegoing had largely returned. Afterward, family audiences became incredibly reticent about going to the cinema for an original Pixar movie they assumed would be on their streaming service in a few months.

Yet last year’s underrated little Pixar gem, Elemental, might’ve turned a corner for a storied animation house that just endured a round of layoffs. Despite a weak opening, word-of-mouth among families and Disney fans got the word out that Elemental is kind of great, and it was able to slow-walk its way to almost $500 million globally. And unlike Elemental and any of Pixar’s other post-pandemic theatrical releases, Inside Out 2 is a sequel to what is also one of their most popular movies from the last decade: 2015’s Inside Out. There is multigenerational affection for the story of a girl named Riley and her conflicting emotions like Joy, Sadness, and Anger. Seeing how they enter the “wonder years” of adolescent life will test if there’s a lot of audience wonderment still for Pixar’s dream factory.

Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn in A Quiet Place: Day One
Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place: Day One

Release Date: June 28

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If you’ve noticed there are a lot of franchise films on this list (in fact, all of them). That’s because despite Oppenheimer’s success last year, summer still means “sure things” and tentpoles to studios, and for the last 20 years the surest thing in studio executives’ heads is intellectual property that audiences already likeed the first time. But in the wake of Furiosa’s crushing opening, the launch of A Quiet Place: Day One becomes a little less sure. Like Furiosa, this is a prequel with new faces leading a film that is essentially doing a lot of world-building on top of a really popular 2010s film.

Of course we don’t really buy the argument that audiences will always eschew prequels (didn’t Wonka just top $600 million less than six months ago?!). So A Quiet Place will test those grounds in a more adult-oriented genre, although since A Quiet Place movies go after PG-13 ratings, and Lupita Nyong’o is playing an all-new character in the thriller that moves this franchise’s action from the rural Southeast to bustling New York City, there are a few advantages for this attempt to expand the “universe.”

Gru in Despicable Me 4
Universal / Illumination

Despicable Me 4

Release Date: July 3

Here is really one of the two biggest yardsticks we have left this year to measure the current state of the industry and the conventional wisdom of how studios like to do things. Unlike Disney, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment played the pandemic cagey by withholding their most popular franchise, Despicable Me/Minions, from streaming in 2020 and 2021. They waited until the coast was clear in summer 2022 to theatrically release Minions: The Rise of Gru, where it grossed within a hair’s breath of $1 billion. But fret not, Illumination crossed that benchmark last year with The Super Mario Bros Movie.

Now the studio is back with a proper Despicable Me sequel (no Minions in the title this time) and the expectation is it can match or at least get in the ballpark of Despicable Me 3, a film that did cross $1 billion in 2017. Despicable Me 4 might indeed be the only film in all of 2024 with a chance of achieving that milestone, so for this to be anything less than a runaway hit (say north of $750 million worldwide?) would resemble a five-alarm fire.

Glen Powell in Twisters
Universal Pictures


Release Date: July 19

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Twisters is an interesting one. A long belated sequel to one of the big hits of the mid-‘90s, Twisters arrives less like a legacy sequel than it does a pseudo-remake. While a fun time in ’96, the Jan de Bont original isn’t exactly remembered with the fondness of Jurassic Park or Mission: Impossible. Thus its sequel is an opportunity to run the same concept again for a new audience, and this time with two more young actors on the rise: Daisy Edgar-Jones (Fresh, Where the Crawdads Sing) and Glen Powell, the latter of whom is on the verge of being considered A-list after the rom-com sleeper hit, Anyone But You, and what promises to be the feel-good Netflix movie of the summer, next week’s Hit Man.

Will Twisters put Powell over the top? Its basic “blue state vs. red state find happy medium” marketing might be a winner in the heartland, and if Powell can really cement himself as a bonafide star after years of being on the bubble, it might help remind executives their industry does have a future—and who knows it may not even require IP when you have a megawatt Texan smile?

Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman in Deadpool and Wolverine
Marvel / Disney

Deadpool & Wolverine

Release Date: July 26

When all is said and done, and all the prognostications are forgotten, probably the one live-action film with the most riding on it this summer has been and will continue to be Deadpool & Wolverine. A bit of an odd duck for Marvel Studios, with the film being both a sequel to a franchise started by another studio (the now defunct 20th Century Fox) and happily rated R for presumably filthy humor, Deadpool & Wolverine also represents Marvel’s lone theatrical release in 2024 after having three goes at theaters last year (two of which to surprisingly weak results).

And yet, this might be both Marvel and studios at large’s best hope of making some lemonade this summer outside of pure family entertainment. While last year’s The Marvels and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania demonstrated apparent weariness to some movies with capes and cowls (DC’s efforts even more so), Deadpool seems a character whose goodwill remains boundless. The same applies to Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of Wolverine, which is coming back for “one last ride” after already doing pretty much the same thing in 2017’s superb Logan. Notably that movie hit $619 million while the two Deadpool flicks each tapped out beneath $800 million. So there definitely is a ceiling for R-rated superhero movies, but for the sake of the superhero genre’s health, and movie theaters’ own more immediate needs, there are a lot of folks now hoping that Deadpool & Wolverine can scrape that roof at the end of July.

Other Summer Glimmers

These are the biggest remaining tentpoles in summer 2024, and thus the ones that will help gauge whether this past May is an anomaly or a tipping point. But we’d also point out that a lot of the success stories in the past spring, including indie hit Civil War and the speciality market’s box office breakout Challengers, shows audience tastes are perhaps a bit more eclectic than studios are giving them credit for.

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And this summer there may yet be room for hopeful signs in less conventional places: A24 and Ti West have a new horror indie that is also technically a franchised sequel, July’s MaXXXine; Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos reteam in Searchlight’s Kinds of Kindness next month after their raunchy art house piece Poor Things earned an impressive $118 million in the speciality market; Austin Butler is completing the ‘50s cool guy hat trick in Focus Features’ The Bikeriders; and, heck, Disney might find just as much success in exhuming the Alien franchise in August with Alien: Romulus as they did in monkeying around with Planet of the Apes. Even M. Night Shyamalan has several original genre movies in the pipeline, one that he’s producing (The Watchers) and the other that he’s also directing (Trap).

While the tentpoles provide the conventional temperature check, it will be interesting to see if something less obvious is able to spread a fever with audiences.