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Can ‘Wonder Woman’ Save the Summer Box Office?

The summer box office needs saving; will “Wonder Woman” come to the rescue?

It will most likely do its part, as current projections for the Warner Bros. film’s domestic opening weekend stand north of $100 million. That’s far above the studio’s more conservative estimate between $65 million and $75 million. Overseas, the movie should score as well — its worldwide grosses by the end of the weekend may exceed $175 million.

For a parched summer, those are refreshing estimates for the latest DC Comics installment, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot. The opening expectations are still below the first weekends of other DC Comics films, including two critically maligned, but profitable 2016 releases: “Suicide Squad” ($133.6 million) and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” ($166 million). “Wonder Woman,” meanwhile, has the critical community on its side — it currently holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The gender politics at play for the film are — brace yourself for an understatement — loaded. Of the 19 superhero movies released featuring Marvel and DC Comics properties since their respective cinematic universes launched in 2008, zero have featured a female character in the leading role. The Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Austin, Texas made headlines for planning a “No Guys Allowed” screening of the movie, which sparked backlash, then backlash to the backlash, ad infinitum. Politics have come into play as well — Lebanon decided to ban all screenings of the film due to Gadot’s Israeli heritage.

Jenkins faces an enormous amount of pressure, considering her first and only feature to date is “Monster” — an Academy Award winner, but one she made more than a decade ago with an $8 million budget. This time around Jenkins had $150 million at her disposal, meaning the movie-making process was an entirely different beast.

The weekend’s only other major opening is Fox’s “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,” which is anticipating a more modest take in the $25 million to $30 million range. The studio is projecting a $20 million opening weekend. 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.

A number of pictures are opening in limited release, including Lionsgate and Pantelion’s Mexican coming-of-age dramedy “3 Idiotas,” and CBS Films’ “Dean,” comic Demetri Martin’s the directorial debut, starring himself.

Ticket sales for the year are up about 2% thanks to the massive success of pre-summer releases like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Fate of the Furious.” But the summer tells a different story. Apart from the hugely successful “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the box office has seen a string of flops and disappointments, including “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” “Alien: Covenant,” and most recently, “Baywatch.” The damage has resulted in sales for the summer slumping almost 9% below the same point last year, according to ComScore. Memorial Day weekend, in particular, was the lowest-earning since 1999. Bold projections that this summer could break records are seeming less and less attainable each weekend.

“Wonder Woman” should perform much better than the box office winner this time last year, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” which crawled back into its shell after opening to $35 million. But putting pressure on one movie to single-handedly muscle the summer box office back in winning form is, frankly, one more unfair expectation for a film that has enough of those already. That said, “Wonder Woman” seems ready for battle.

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