James Gunn’s final film for Marvel fared especially well overseas, including a No. 1 finish in China. Elsewhere, blockbuster ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ finally falls to No. 2 in its fifth weekend.
James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 topped the weekend box office with a domestic opening of $114 million, well behind the last film in the standalone Marvel Studios franchise but promising enough to fan hope that the movie is already benefiting from strong audience sentiment.
The news was even better overseas, where the superhero pic started off with a better-than-expected $168.1 million from 52 markets for a global start of $282.1 million (it placed No. 1 everywhere). China led with $28.1 million, followed by the U.K. (14.7 million), South Korea ($13.6 million), Mexico ($13 million), France ($8.2 million).
In China, Guardians 3 came in a surprise No. 1 with $28.1 million despite competition from homegrown fare. While that’s less than the $49 million debut of the last installment, it’s a strong number considering that most Hollywood movies have been doing nominal business in China. And the movie is huge in South Korea — it’s already earned more than The Super Mario Bros. Movie — while also doing well across the rest of Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Any domestic opening over $100 million in the post-pandemic era is nothing to be dismissed. Still, Guardians‘ initial performance in North America is mixed news for Marvel and Gunn — who now runs rival DC Studios — and is sparking further concern that superhero fatigue has settled in at the box office as the 2023 summer season kicks off. Only a year ago, for example, Marvel threequel Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness soared to a series-best $187 million in its domestic launch.
Guardians 3 certainly doesn’t lack for audience love; it earned an A CinemaScore and strong exit scores on PostTrak, and it’s already paying off. On Saturday morning, Marvel and Disney thought the movie might clear no more than $110 million for the weekend, but traffic was better than expected throughout Saturday and saw a bump over Friday. If that trend continues, the threequel could enjoy a long run.
Reviewers feel differently than do consumers, with the movie sporting the lowest Rotten Tomatoes critics score of the three films.
In 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened to $146.2 million, while the first Guardians opened to $94.2 million domestically in 2014, not adjusted for inflation.