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Box Office: ‘Suicide Squad’ Shoots to Massive $20.5 Million on Thursday Night

Suicide Squad” has opened with a massive $20.5 million in Thursday night screenings in North America — setting a record for an August release and making it the 13th biggest preview showing ever.

This is also the third-largest preview total for a DC movie after 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” with $30.6 million and March’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with $27.7 million.

Suicide Squad” Imax screenings contributed 12%, or $2.4 million, last night.

“Suicide Squad” will annihilate the competition when it debuts across 4,250 theaters, setting a new record for the month with its $125 million-plus launch — far above the $94.3 million of “Guardians of the Galaxy” two years ago, which included a record-breaking $11.2 million Thursday opening.

The Warner Bros. tentpole is expected to overcome bad buzz and lousy reviews, which have generated a lowly 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 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 nearly 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”; as of Friday, “Squad” represented more than 90% of its weekend sales.

Warner Bros. made its first foray into creating a DC universe with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which grossed a mildly disappointing $870 million worldwide after an impressive $166 million opening in the U.S. Critical response was largely negative, generating 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a B CinemaScore.

“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 $9 million at 2,264 locations.

Universal’s second weekend of Matt Damon’s “Jason Bourne” will likely bring in at least $25 million — enough to push the actioner past $100 million.

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