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”