‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Rockets to $114 Million Box Office Opening

Marvel Studios’ 32nd film is enjoying better audience reception than several of its recent releases

Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.
Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” has kicked off the summer box office season with a $114 million domestic opening weekend, keeping last month’s momentum going with strong audience reception that should allow James Gunn’s final MCU film to leg out in theaters.

With $38.9 million grossed from 4,405 locations on Saturday, “Guardians Vol. 3” beat industry projections and may do so again on Sunday, possibly allowing it to get to a final weekend total closer to $120 million when actual totals are reported on Monday.

Overseas, “Guardians Vol. 3” added $168 million from 52 markets, including $28.1 million from the now Hollywood-averse China, to earn a global opening weekend of $282 million — 40% of that opening weekend is estimated to come from premium formats, including $25 million from IMAX.

Recent installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have broken the franchise’s longtime streak of strong critical and audience reception, with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” suffering a franchise-worst 70% second weekend drop this past February. It is possible that such struggles weighed down pre-release buzz for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” as it is opening below the $146.5 million launch of “Guardians Vol. 2” in 2017, while pre-release tracking dropped from $130 million to its final projections of $110-120 million due to lower-than-expected presales.

But critics and audiences both seem to agree that “Guardians Vol. 3” is a return to form for Marvel and a strong ending to the “Guardians” trilogy. Rotten Tomatoes scores stand at 81% critics and 95% audience, with an A on CinemaScore and 5/5 score on PostTrak.

With no four-quadrant competition coming until “Fast X” on May 19, “Guardians Vol. 3” will have two weeks of premium format play to take advantage of this strong word-of-mouth. If it carries the way other similarly received May Marvel releases have, a domestic total of $300 million is within reach.

The competition from “Guardians Vol. 3” meant that Universal/Illumination’s took a 55% drop in its fifth weekend to $18.5 million; but the Nintendo adaptation is now the third animated movie to gross over $500 million in North America.

On Monday, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” will pass the $1.15 billion total of “Minions” to become the highest grossing animated movie not produced by Disney or Pixar and one of the Top 5 highest grossing animated movies of all time. The No. 4 spot on that list currently belongs to “Incredibles 2” with $1.24 billion grossed in 2018.

Farther down the charts, Sony/Screen Gems’ romantic comedy “Love Again” is failing to draw a substantial counterprogramming audience with just $2.4 million grossed from 2,703 locations. The film has earned solid audience reception with a B on CinemaScore, 4/5 on PostTrak and a 92% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, but has been panned by critics with a 13% RT score.

Among holdovers, Warner Bros./New Line’s “Evil Dead Rise” has added $5.7 million in its third weekend for a domestic total of $54 million against a reported $15 million production budget. Lionsgate’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is continuing its uphill battle to post a theatrical profit against a $30 million budget with $3.3 million grossed in its second weekend, giving it a $12.6 million total heading into a Mother’s Day weekend in which it will compete against Focus Features’ “Book Club: The Next Chapter”