Box Office: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Kicks Off Summer Movie Season With $118 Million Debut

UPDATED: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” the conclusion to Marvel’s trilogy about an extraterrestrial crew of misfits, kicked off with $118 million in its domestic box office debut. Due to a better-than-expected turnout on Sunday, Monday’s final tally was higher than the weekend’s estimate of $114 million.

Those ticket sales rank as the second-biggest opening weekend of the year, behind “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” with $146 million. Despite the towering figure, the film ever-so-slightly missed expectations of $120 million and arrived considerably behind its predecessor, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which debuted to $146 million in 2017. It’s a jump on the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which introduced the world to Chris Pratt’s Star Lord and his friends and opened to $94 million in 2014.

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At the international box office, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” added $170 million from 52 markets, bringing its global tally to $289 million. In China, which was once a huge territory for Marvel but has been increasingly hostile toward most Hollywood movies, the comic book threequel collected a better-than-expected $28 million to start.

Premium large formats, including Imax and Dolby, accounted for 40% of the film’s opening weekend ticket sales. Imax alone delivered $10.7 million in North America and $25 million globally. “We expect the strong audience response to yield a long, successful run at the box office,” says the company’s CEO Rich Gelfond.

For “Vol. 3,” the next few weeks will be crucial as summer movie season kicks into high gear with “Fast X” on May 19 and “The Little Mermaid” on May 26. Disney’s superhero sequel needs to sustain momentum against those tentpoles to avoid the same ignominious fate as fellow Marvel installment “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which ignited earlier this year to a mighty $106 million before immediately collapsing at the box office. It failed to reach $500 million worldwide, ending that trilogy on a low note and reinforcing the narrative that Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is struggling to maintain its luster as an A-list franchise.

“Bear in mind,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “For superheroes, average is in the stratosphere.”

Gunn returned to write and direct “Vol. 3,” which is his final Marvel movie before he takes the reins at rival comic book banner DC Studios. In the past, the “Guardians” movies have been promising box office performers. The first film ended its theatrical run with $333 million domestically and $773 million globally, while the follow-up tapped out with $389 million domestically and $863 million globally. Heading into the summer, there were predictions that “Vol. 3” would break records by the time it leaves theaters, but that’s no longer a guarantee. However, the studio is hoping that positive word of mouth, including the film’s “A” grade on CinemaScore and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, prolongs its life in theaters.

Elsewhere at the domestic box office, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ended the four-week box office reign of Universal, Illumination and Nintendo’s animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which slid to second place with $18.6 million from 3,909 theaters. It’s the highest-grossing film of the year with $518 million domestically and $1.15 billion globally.

Another newcomer, Sony’s romantic comedy “Love Again,” majorly flopped with $2.4 million from 2,703 venues. The film, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and set against a backdrop of Celine Dion’s discography, earned a “B” CinemaScore and holds a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, which doesn’t point to a long life in theaters. Luckily, it only cost $9 million to produce.

“Love Again” landed in fifth place behind holdovers, the horror sequel “Evil Dead Rise” and literary adaptation “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

“Evil Dead Rise,” a supernatural horror sequel from Warner Bros. and New Line, took third place with $5.7 million from 3,036 theaters in its third weekend of release. It’s been a solid box office performer with $54 million in North America and $110 million globally. Making those returns even sweeter, the $15 million-budgeted film was originally intended to release on HBO Max before getting a traditional theatrical release.

At No. 4, Lionsgate’s adaptation of Judy Blume’s seminal novel added $3.38 million in its second weekend of release. Unfortunately for the $30 million-budgeted film, its great reviews didn’t translate into ticket sales. It’s generated just $12.6 million to date.

Updated to include Monday’s final tally.

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