These interstellar adventurers are not well known to non-comicbook readers, but studio analysts are still projecting big things when the picture touches down in multiplexes. That’s because Marvel’s cinematic universe has grossed $6.3 billion since it kicked off with 2008′s “Iron Man,” making it the second most successful film franchise, trailing “Harry Potter.” The film is being marketed heavily on that record of success, with promotional materials heralding the picture as springing from the brains that brought audiences “The Avengers,” “Thor” and “Captain America.”
“There are very few brands other than Pixar that have the ability to transcend the typical marketing requirements,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Marvel has the same cachet, and this film will really put that to the test.”
Walt Disney Studios, which bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, is projecting a debut of about $65 million, but some analysts predict the offbeat space odyssey will blast off to $70 million or more.
The only other wide release hitting domestic theaters is Universal Pictures’ James Brown biopic “Get on Up,” which stars Chadwick Boseman (“42″) as the “Godfather of Soul” and is directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”). The film is expected to make $12 million-$14 million when it premieres in 2,466 theaters. The studio is pitching the film at an older, African-American crowd. Its international roll-out begins in September.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” may benefit from the post-”Avengers” bump that goosed grosses for “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — all of which improved substantially on the ticket sales of the previous film in their series.
“There has been a steadiness and momentum with the brand overall that just crescendoed with ‘The Avengers,’ and the impact of that film continues to bleed into other films,” said Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios’ executive vice president of theatrical distribution.
The picture falls firmly into what Marvel has deemed its Phase II — films that spin off of the super-team film and broaden the universe to include new heroes and villains, some of whom aren’t as well known as Iron Man and Thor. Disney’s decision to place the picture in August, traditionally a slower point in popcorn movie season, seems to be playing to its advantage.
The pic will have the widest August opening in history. It debuts in 4,080 theaters, nearly 3,200 of which are in 3D. Also included in that tally are 350 Imax locations, roughly the same number of premium large screen formats, 125 DBox locations and two 4D locations.
Overseas, the film will bow in 42 international territories including the United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” will find a summer that is dragging itself to the finish line and down more than 20% from last year’s record-breaker. That could work to its advantage.
“People are still looking for that one summer film to rally around,” said Shawn Robbins, assistant editor of BoxOffice.com.
With Marvel’s track record, they may have found it.