“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is heading for a stellar opening weekend with about $150 million in North America, early estimates showed Friday.
The Disney-Marvel tentpole is kicking off the summer box office with a bang, with an expected domestic opening in the range of $150 million to $170 million at 4,347 locations, while Disney has been projecting $140 million to $150 million. If the sequel hits $160 million this weekend, it will be only the 11th title to reach that milestone.
“Vol. 2” scored $17 million in Thursday preview grosses alone — the third-largest for a Marvel title after “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with $27.6 million, and “Captain America: Civil War,” with $25 million. It’s the biggest preview number for any title this year.
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. The film is replete with dazzling visual effects and carries a price tag of about $200 million.
“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 Thursday. 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.
But Disney and Marvel aren’t just hoping to impress critics. The studios are also banking on “Galaxy” to help boost the overall box office for the rest of the year.
“This summer looks to easily eclipse the underwhelming bummer of 2016,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. “2017 boasts a spectacular selection of hits from every studio featuring a perfect blend of films from all genres and a compelling line-up boasting a mix of sequels and intriguing originals, that could make this the biggest summer block party ever.”
Year-to-date, 2017 has already seen $3.75 billion in the domestic box office as of May 3. That number is up 3.5% from the same time in 2016.