The Suicide Squad” opened to $4.1 million in Thursday night previews, bolstered by strong reviews and the wider world of fandom’s mania for all things James Gunn.

Theater owners are hoping that the very R-rated comic book film will provide a much-needed jolt to the box office after concerns about the Delta variant and new distribution models have stalled their recovery. But “The Suicide Squad” is also part of this shift in how movies are being presented to consumers. The film is premiering simultaneously on HBO Max, which may take a bite out of ticket sales. Last year, Warner Bros. opted to debut its entire 2021 slate of films on the new streaming service — it was both a concession to the pandemic era and a means of bolstering subscriptions for its nascent Netflix challenger.

“The Suicide Squad,” which is not to be confused with its article-less 2016 predecessor “Suicide Squad,” is a spiritual sequel, reboot, do-over to the first film’s tale of a group of super-villains tasked with a dangerous mission. It brings back original stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag, and Viola Davis as the shadowy puppet master Amanda Waller, and introduces new characters such as Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and Jon Cena’s Peacemaker to the melee. But the essential new ingredient is James Gunn, the pulpy, Day-Glo’d “Guardians of the Galaxy” maestro who is putting a fresh spin on a franchise that stumbled out of the gate. Critics liked what he had to offer. Unlike the 2016 film, which was excoriated by reviewers, “The Suicide Squad” has enjoyed raves and currently holds a 93% “fresh” ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. In a positive notice, Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman called the movie “…cunningly scuzzy, disreputable fun.”

Analysts believe that “The Suicide Squad” will generate more than $30 million in its opening weekend. The film carries a hefty $185 million price tag, so normally that kind of launch would be a disappointment. But hey, we’re living in plague times. In this kind of atmosphere, that ranks as a hit.