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Box Office: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Rockets to $48 Million Opening Day

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” formally kicked off the summer blockbuster season Friday. While Disney’s domestic numbers have yet to come in, analysts indicate the film drew about $48.2 million on its opening day, a figure that includes $17.5 million in Thursday previews.

The trilogy capper is on track to land within its expectations heading into the weekend, which had pegged the Disney release to take root with a $110 million to $120 million debut through Sunday. That would be enough to notch the second-highest opening of the year, behind only the $146 million that “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” coined over a three-day frame. However, it’d still be roughly a quarter down from the $146.5 million debut earned by “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” back in 2017.

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The James Gunn-directed extraterrestrial adventure has garnered favorable nods, with a 67% approval rating from top critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge was especially favorable, naming the film a critic’s pick.

“Gunn toys with the mortality of his ensemble as well, but he does so responsibly, honoring the bonds we’ve made to these characters over the years, and recognizing that the Guardians can and will evolve,” Debruge wrote.

But even more encouraging for Marvel Studios is the sterling response among the first round of ticket buyers, as indicated by the film’s “A” grade through research firm Cinema Score. That strong result matches “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and is a leg up on the B-level grades earned by other recent fare from the studio, like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Some disappointed murmurs have steadily grown among Marvel audiences in the years since 2019’s rapturously received (and superlatively commercial) team-up climax “Avengers: Endgame,” but “Guardians Vol. 3” seems to have the favor of fans.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” bids farewell to Chris Pratt’s Star Lord and his crew of interstellar heroes, played by Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff and Karen Gillan, as well as the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. The new film gives insight into Rocket Raccoon’s tragic past, as the team faces off against the evil High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).

It’s certainly a good weekend to be Chris Pratt, as audiences continue to flock to see his turn in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” After four weekends as the domestic box office leader, Universal, Nintendo and Illumination’s animated adventure is finally falling to second place this weekend, projecting an $18.5 million gross through the weekend.

That’d be about 55% down from its previous outing. “Mario Bros.” has not faced a week-to-week drop higher than 37% so far. That shows how “Guardians Vol. 3” is taking a bite out of ticket sales for the video game adaptation, but it also demonstrates the impressive staying power that “Mario Bros.” has sustained through a month in theaters. Total domestic gross should stand at $518 million through Sunday, far and away the highest of the year so far.

“Evil Dead Rise” looks to take third, earning $1.6 million on Friday. The Warner Bros. release has now crossed $50 million at the domestic box office, more than matching its $19 million production budget. The wacky horror entry was originally commissioned for an exclusive HBO Max release.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is headed for fourth place, projecting a $3.2 million haul for its second weekend. That’s a modest enough hold (-51%) for the coming-of-age comedy, though its $10 million domestic gross now has little hope of maturing to match a $30 million production budget. Lionsgate will hope for the film to find play through the Mother’s Day holiday next weekend.

“Love Again,” a romantic comedy starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan and Celine Dion being opened by Sony, is fighting against “John Wick: Chapter 4” for the fifth place slot. The film is projecting $2.6 million for the weekend.

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