Box Office: ‘Suicide Squad’ Heads for Enormous $140 Million Opening Weekend

Despite dismal reviews, Warner Bros. “Suicide Squad” is heading for an impressive $140 million opening weekend at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday.

The supervillain tentpole, playing at 4,255 locations, will wind up in the top 20 domestic launches of all time. “Suicide Squad” will demolish the “Guardians of the Galaxy” two-year-old record for an August opening by more than $45 million and finish as 2016’s third-biggest opening weekend after “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Despite bad buzz, moviegoers are responding with gusto to “Squad,” which is heading for a $62 million opening day — including a massive $20.5 million in Thursday night screenings, making it the 13th biggest preview showing ever. Should the $140 million forecast hold, it would come in at the top end of recent projections.

Many critics had drubbed “Squad,” generating a lowly 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — provoking fans to launch a petition to take the site offline. The film, directed by David Ayer, centers on jailed supervillains hired by the U.S. government to undertake covert operations and save the world.

The star-laden cast includes Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, and Cara Delevingne. Warner Bros. spent $175 million making the movie as part of its efforts to create an interlocking cinematic universe filled with DC superheroes, much like what Disney has achieved with the Marvel characters.

Fan support has been strong with 4 million followers for the “Suicide Squad” Facebook page. Online ticket seller Fandango reported Tuesday that “Suicide Squad” was the top August pre-seller in the company’s 16-year history, eclipsing “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said “Squad” is the latest example of the disconnect between critics and audiences as fans made the film the most talked about movie on social media, according to comScore’s PreAct, for the past several weeks.

“According to our PostTrak exit poll data the combination of African American and Hispanic moviegoers made up a huge 41% of the audience with both audiences giving the film a whopping 81% positive score and the cast as a whole was a major reason (at 34%) that people went to see the film,” Dergarabedian said.

He added that comScore tracking showed that 23% off attendees went because of  Smith and 21% due to  Robbie. Smith’s previous top opening came from 2007’s “I Am Legend” with $77 million.

For now, the results are something of a vindication for Warner Bros., which made its first foray into creating a DC universe in March with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” That team-up grossed a mildly disappointing $870 million worldwide after an impressive $166 million opening in the U.S.

Critical response for “Batman v Superman” was largely negative, generating 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a B CinemaScore — which portended a 70% decline in its second weekend.

“Suicide Squad” is also expected to open to more than $100 million overseas this weekend when it rolls out across 57 markets, including such major territories as the U.K. and Mexico. However, it’s not expected to receive approval for entry into China due to its dark tone.

Rival studios are avoiding opening against “Suicide Squad” except for EuropaCorp’s family comedy “Nine Lives,” starring Kevin Spacey as an executive transformed into a cat. The $31 million production should open to around $6 million to $7 million at 2,264 locations.

Universal’s second weekend of Matt Damon’s “Jason Bourne” will likely bring in around $21 million as its slides 64% from the opening frame. Still, that should push the actioner past $100 million by the end of the weekend.

STX Entertainment’s “Bad Moms” is showing decent holding power and should decline about 42% to $13 million — giving the raunchy comedy about $50 million in its first 10 days.

Illumination-Universal’s fifth weekend of its hit “The Secret Life of Pets” will finish fourth at about $10 million to push its 31-day total to $318 million.

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