‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Rockets to $17 Million at Thursday Box Office

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” blasted off with $17 million on Thursday night in North America.

Disney-Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is set to kick off the summer box office with a bang, with a domestic opening in the range of $150 million to $170 million at 4,347 locations with Disney projecting $150 million. If the tentpole hits $160 million this weekend, it will be only the 11th title to reach that milestone.

The Thursday preview gross for the “Guardians” sequel is the third-largest for a Marvel title after “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with $27.6 million, and “Captain America: Civil War,” with $25 million. Recent equivalent preview numbers include “Furious 7” with  $15.8 million on its way to a $147 million opening weekend and “Beauty and the Beast” with  $16.3 million in previews and a $174.7 million launch weekend.

The first “Guardians” movie introduced a band of misfit superheroes — Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Vin Diesel as Groot, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket — teaming up against evil forces. The 2014 film was a relatively unknown property that managed to smash records for the month of August when it opened with $94 million on its way to $333 million domestically and $440 million overseas.

James Gunn has returned to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” from his own script. He revealed last month that he will be back to write and direct a third installment as well.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” opened in 53% of the international marketplace with $106 million last weekend and a foreign total of $167 million as of Thursay. It debuted in South Korea on Wednesday with $3.3 million ($4.4 million including previews) for the biggest opening day of 2017. The film opened with $2.8 million on Thursday in Russia, 41% ahead of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s launching in China on Friday so the worldwide total this weekend should be in the $250 million range.

The sequel has impressed critics, earning a 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Shot for shot, line and line, it’s an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle,” Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote in his mixed review.

Rival studios are shying away from opening new films this weekend so “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is the only title with a wide domestic debut. The Weinstein Company is releasing transgender drama “3 Generation” at six venues and IFC is opening boxing drama “Chuck,” starring Liev Schreiber, at four locations.

Universal’s fourth frame of “The Fate of the Furious” should lead the rest of the pack with about $10 million. The eighth installment of “The Fast and Furious” franchise is expected to cross $21o million at the domestic box office on Friday.

Pantelion’s second weekend of “How to Be a Latin Lover” will likely take third with around $7 million at only 1,203 sites, followed by Fox’s sixth frame of the animated comedy “The Boss Baby,” which has already crossed the $150 million mark.

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