‘Furiosa,’ ‘The Fall Guy,’ and More: 5 Movies Will Lead May Box Office and Theaters Need Them All

T.S. Eliot, box office pundit: The wasteland of April was the cruelest month for theaters. To say May will be an improvement damns with faint praise; April was less than $440 million, down 52 percent from 2023. What May really needs is a performance not unlike the one we saw a year ago, when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” lead the month to just under $800 million total.

To achieve that in 2024, there are five films that must reach their potential. All are positioned to reach $100 million in U.S./Canada, although not necessarily by the end of May.

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Perhaps the trickiest one to guess is the “The Fall Guy” (Universal). It has the best start-of-summer date, stars the red-hot Ryan Gosling, and received good reviews, yet the consensus among a range of insiders is it may be only the fourth biggest among May releases.

Films like “The Fall Guy” really need to overachieve to help bring back optimism to the business. In particular, studios need to feel it’s worth risking $125 million on a non-franchise title to balance their sequel-heavy (and often more expensive) lineups.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Noa (voice: Owen Teague), 2024.  TM and copyright © Twentieth Century Fox. Film corp. All rights. Reserved. / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Films that could gross more than “The Fall Guy” are “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (Disney) opening May 10, John Krasinski’s “IF” (Paramount) with Ryan Reynolds on May 17, and George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” (Warner Bros.) on May 24. “The Garfield Movie” (Sony), also May 24, could also reach $100 million. We haven’t seen five films hit that mark in May since 2014.

However, none of these titles are expected to reach $200 million — a harsh reality for May when the long-running Disney Marvel releases easily achieved that. This month will also see a limited boost from April titles; expect those to contribute less than $100 million.

The best of the month’s other new releases (“Tarot” from Sony this Friday; “The Strangers: Chapter 1” from Lionsgate and “Back to Black” from Focus, both May 17) should bring in no more than $30 million each. All told, these and other new films might add another $125 million to the total.

The more realistic guess for the month is $750 million, slightly below last year, but at least there will be a steady flow of new and potentially appealing titles. Ten months after the “Barbie”/”Oppenheimer” phenomenon, movie attendance needs another kickstart to counter the strikes’ product pipeline disruptions.

Also realistic: It’s likely that one or more the most promising films will fall short. And in the very best-case scenario, the year still would be 17 percent under 2023 with a trajectory around $7.5 billion for the year. Opportunities to catch up will continue to decline.

The year’s worst-case scenario (and this itself was scary) was $8 billion, with hopes for $8.5 billion. Matching the 2023 gross of just over $9 billion is now impossible.

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