Memorial Day 2024 set a weak standard for summer movie sales.

Hollywood anticipated “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” to clean up at the box office during the holiday weekend. It fell flat.

The film earned just over $32.3 million — it was the highest earning film over Memorial Day weekend, but compared to previous three-day weekend openings, its earnings are feeble. “The Garfield Movie” trailed behind with $31.2 million in earnings.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the numbers that are coming out this weekend are nothing to write home about,” Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, told CNN following Memorial Day. “Summer is the most important moviegoing season of the year, accounting on average for nearly 40% of the total domestic annual revenue.”

It’s not just Memorial Day with lousy ticket sales. Box office sales all around are off to an abysmal start this summer.

Blockbusters kicked off this summer with “The Fall Guy.” It had everything going for it — action, romance, A-list stars (Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling) and a $140 million budget. But it suffered at the box office with a $28 million domestic opening weekend, the lowest summer kick off since 1995, per The New York Times. The film eventually rolled over to streaming platforms for more attention, per Forbes.

″'The Fall Guy’ had quality co-stars in Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, but the lack of a known franchise brand and a niche storyline made it too narrow to attract a mass summer-like audience,” said Eric Handler, managing director at Roth MKM, per CNBC.

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Other franchise-free films are also suffering at the box office. Original films from the year such as “Challengers,” “Civil War” and “Anyone But You” haven’t broken $100 million at the box office, per Box Office Mojo.

Thirty years ago, original films dominated at the box office. The top grossing films of 1994 were “The Lion King” ($295 million), “Forrest Gump” ($294 million) and “True Lies” ($146 million), per Box Office Mojo.

Original films have gradually slipped in popularity, becoming overshadowed by franchises like Marvel, Godzilla and “Star Wars.” Sequel, prequel and spinoff movies are everywhere — are they keeping movie seats full?

Are franchises keeping Hollywood afloat?

Franchises have long been a staple in summer releases. Especially superhero movies. But there’s an absence of superhero movies this summer.

For the first time since 2009, there is no Marvel movie launching on the brink of summer, per CNBC. Marvel’s “Deadpool & Wolverine” lands in theaters at the end of July, but with an R-rating, it is unlikely to make up the difference at the box office.

There’s no lack in expanding franchises this summer, though. In the coming months, theaters will screen “Inside Out 2,” “Despicable Me 4,” “Twisters,” “A Quiet Place: Day One” and “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.” But are these prequel, sequel and spinoff movies enough to buoy sinking ticket sales?

We’ve hit 2024′s halfway point. The top grossing movies so far this year are all sequels.

According to Box Office Mojo, these are the highest grossing films of 2024:

1. “Dune: Part Two” ($282 million).

2. “Godzilla x Kong: The Frozen Empire” ($196 million).

3. “Kung Fu Panda 4″ ($193 million).

4. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” ($149 million).

5. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” ($113 million).

A 2016 analysis from Forbes found that “15 of the top 20 most profitable movies were sequels; spin-offs ... or reboots”

“Studios are inherently risk-averse, because they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on films with no guarantee that they’ll recoup their losses,” writes Forbes. “It’s easy to see why sequels and reboots are so appealing — they come with a built-in ticket-buying fan base, and are proven to be profitable. Moviegoers might grouse about the lack of original programming, but so long as they keep buying tickets, studios will keep making sequels.”

Why sequels attract larger audiences is probably due to a slew of reasons. One thing is clear: Americans aren’t going to movie theaters as regularly.

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Comments

With the average movie ticket cost pushing $12, audiences might be more selective about what movies they are willing to shell out a small fortune for.

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The growing list of expanding franchises

Hollywood is a well-oiled machine for churning out sequels. The second half of 2024′s release line up is stacked with franchise films.

Just for fun, let’s take a look a the growing list of upcoming sequels, prequels and spinoffs:

  • “Twisters.”
  • “Despicable Me 4.″
  • “A Quiet Place: Day One.”
  • “Inside Out 2.″
  • “Alien: Romulus.”
  • “Deadpool & Wolverine.”
  • “Moana 2.″
  • “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.”
  • “Joker: Folie à Deux.”
  • “Gladiator 2.″
  • “Sonic 3.″
  • “Transformers One.”
  • “Captain America: Brave New World.”
  • “Zootopia 2.″
  • “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.”
  • “Paddington in Peru.”
  • “Megamind vs. the Doom Syndicate.”
  • “Venom: The Last Dance.”

Whether it’s a creative drought or Hollywood is just milking a cash cow, as long as audiences buy tickets to sequels, we’ll probably see even more sequels in the future.

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