Can ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Continue Marvel’s $100 Million-Plus Opening Streak?

Superhero sequel to get “Infinity War” boost at the box office

The global phenomenon that was “Avengers: Infinity War” was such a juggernaut at the box office, it’s poised to propel the latest “Ant-Man” movie into a sizeable midsummer hit.

Disney predicts “Ant-Man and the Wasp” will gross roughly $80 million in its debut weekend — the same amount two other trackers are currently estimating. Already that’s much higher than the $57.2 million debut of the first “Ant-Man.” But studio estimates are notoriously conservative. In reality, the film has a shot at breaking Marvel Studios’ streak of five consecutive films with a start above $100 million.

As the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to come out after “Infinity War” — which became the summer season’s first-ever $2 billion hit — the upside for the “Ant-Man” sequel is high. Analysts who spoke with TheWrap said they expect at least a $90 million launch.

“They’re selling the brand at this point,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “Disney can put any superhero on the slate and people will come in to see it. That’s the clout Marvel Studios has at this point. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see this film make $90 or even $100 million.”

Reviews for the film have been as strong as the original, with critics giving “Wasp” an 84 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. Critics have also noted — as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has teased — the film has a mid-credit sequence that ties the shocking ending of “Infinity War” into Ant-Man’s life, and teases how the shrinking superhero will factor into next year’s “Avengers 4.”

With fans still abuzz about Thanos’ supposed victory and theories flying about on how the surviving Avengers will set things right, comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian thinks the credits scene will raise interest in a film that otherwise serves as a light-hearted palate cleanser from the darkness of “Infinity War.”

“The film explains why Ant-Man wasn’t around during ‘Infinity War’ but then goes off on its own fun adventure, which is something that I think a lot of Marvel fans are going to really want after seeing so many characters die,” he said. “That’s what Marvel has done so well. They’ve learned to offer something different with each new installment.”

Dergarabedian attributes his high “Ant-Man” debut weekend estimate to “the trailer factor.”

“Just two weeks ago, everyone was in the theaters watching ‘Incredibles 2’ and then ‘Jurassic World,’ and they were seeing these trailers for ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Mission: Impossible’ and other movies that are coming up in the second half of the summer,” said the comScore analyst. “Nothing breeds success like success, and getting eyeballs in front of those trailers can only increase interest for the next wave of films even more.”

While advance ticket sales aren’t always an indicator of box office performance, Fandango reported that such sales for “Wasp” on their site are outperforming “Doctor Strange,” which was the last MCU film to open below $100 million, grossing $85 million on its debut.

Taking place in between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” rejoins Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) as he goes into house arrest after assisting Captain America during the events of “Civil War.” The reluctant hero just wants to take care of his daughter, but is forced to suit up again after a mysterious villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) steals technology belonging to the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).

This time, Hank’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) jumps into action as The Wasp, but she’s in for the shock of her life when her believed-to-be-dead mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), returns after decades the Quantum Realm. Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer and Tip “T.I.” Harris also star, with Peyton Reed back as director.

No other new releases are coming out this weekend, but Universal is sending through the next installment of Blumhouse’s “Purge” series on Wednesday to coincide with the July 4 holiday. Titled “The First Purge,” the prequel shows the racially-charged origins of the series’ titular night of slaughter, as the far-right New Founding Fathers of America use a minority-majority Staten Island as the testing ground for the Purge as the island’s black community struggles to survive.

The previous installment, “The Purge: Election Year,” opened on July 1 two years ago and earned an opening of $31 million. With “Ant-Man and the Wasp” as a competitor this weekend, “The First Purge” isn’t expected to match this result. But it could put a wrinkle in those $100 million projections for the Marvel movie sequel.

Blumhouse’s characteristically low spending has kept the box office bar equally low for this prequel. With a $13 million budget, trackers are expecting a solid $25 million five-day launch for the film. Reviews have been mixed, with Rotten Tomatoes reporting an early 49 percent score. Starring Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, and Marisa Tomei, “The First Purge” is directed by Gerard McMurray, who takes over from series creator James DeMonaco as he returns to write the screenplay.