Should the first projections hold for the Warner Bros. tentpole, “Wonder Woman” and director Patty Jenkins will set a record for the top domestic debut weekend for a film directed by a woman. Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” previously held that distinction with an opening weekend gross of $85 million on Feb. 13-15, 2015 and $93 million over the four-day Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend.
First Friday estimates showed “Wonder Woman” finishing in the $96 million to $103 million range at 4,165 sites, while Fox’s launch of animated children’s comedy “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” was heading for a launch between $24 million and $32 million at 3,434 locations.
That’s in line with recent forecasts for “Wonder Woman’s” domestic launch, which have been in the $100 million range — far above the studio’s more conservative estimate in the $80 million range.
“Wonder Woman” could take in as much as $40 million on Friday, which would include the $11 million from Thursday night previews — the third-highest preview number of the year.
Disney’s second weekend of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” was heading for a steep 66% decline from its opening to finish behind “Captain Underpants” with about $22 million at 4,276 venues, which will leave it with a 10-day gross of $111 million by the end of Sunday.
Disney-Marvel’s fifth weekend of stalwart sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” will finish fourth with about $10 million at 3,507 locations, lifting the domestic total to $353 million by the end of the weekend.
And Paramount’s second weekend of “Baywatch” was sinking fast and projected to finish fifth in the $6 million to $8 million range. The bawdy action comedy should wind up the weekend a shade under $40 million.
“Wonder Woman” is the fourth installment in the studio’s DC Extended Universe, which launched with 2013’s “Man of Steel” with an opening weekend of $116.6 million, followed by last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with $166 million and “Suicide Squad” with $133.6 million. “Wonder Woman,” made for about $150 million, is critically acclaimed, with a 94% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Moviegoers praised “Wonder Woman,” with 85% giving it an “excellent” or “very good” ranking, according to a comScore/Screen Engine PostTrak audience survey. A total of 39% said they were watching the movie because of the franchise; 53% were there for the superhero genre; and an impressive 31% attended due to Gadot. The survey also showed that the audience was evenly split in terms of gender, while most superhero tentpoles skew male.
It’s a welcome performance, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore.
“While the industry clings to a 1.3% year to date advantage over last year after an ornery and cantankerous Memorial weekend (that has left the summer with a 7.4% deficit vs. last year), a life raft in the form of a DC superhero named Wonder Woman arrives in the nick of time to give this all-important season a much-needed kick in the utility belt,” he said.
The film marks Jenkins’ second feature following 2003’s “Monster,” for which Charlize Theron won a best actress Academy Award. “Wonder Woman” is set against the backdrop of World War I with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor crashing on an island in the Amazons, where Gadot’s Princess Diana has been trained by her aunt Antiope, portrayed by Robin Wright. The duo then leaves the island to try to stop the war.
The weekend’s only other major opening is “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,” based on Dav Pilkey’s children’s books about two young pranksters who hypnotize their principal into thinking that he has superpowers, the DreamWorks Animation production features the voices of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, and Thomas Middleditch. The project carries a modest $30 million price tag and has generated plenty of critical support with an 86% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.