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In the nearly three years since Guardians of Galaxy conquered the box office, the ragtag group of lesser-known superhero heroes featured in director James Gunn’s quirky superhero movie have become part of the cultural lexicon.
Still, no one was quite sure to how big a cultural draw they’d become until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 rocketed to a rousing $145 million at the North American box office over the weekend — 54 percent ahead of the first Guardians to kick off the summer season in high style. That’s one of the biggest growth spurts for a superhero series in recent times, and marks a needed win for Hollywood in the fight against sequel fatigue.
Guardians Vol. 2 enjoyed a bigger increase than Warner Bros. and DC’s sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did over Man of Steel (43 percent), or any Avengers, Iron Man or Thor installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (One major exception remains Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which opened 222 percent ahead of Batman Begins.)
And it isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Overseas, Guardians Vol. 2 is pulling in bigger numbers than the original movie. In South Korea, it lifted off with with $13.3 million, eclipsing the entire run of the first movie, which topped out at $10 million. In China, Vol. 2 launched to $48 million, 75 percent bigger than Guardians of Galaxy, which debuted in August 2014.
“Of all the superhero movies, it’s the one that casts the widest net, and most importantly, it is a crowd pleaser,” says IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster.
Overall, families made up a hearty 19 percent of the audience, an especially strong showing for a superhero offering. Guardians Vol. 2 earned $51.1 million on Saturday, the 11th best showing of all time. And Saturday, of course, is a traditional family moviegoing day.
“The character Baby Groot is for sure appealing universally and among families. And Rocket is Rocket,” says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. “As each of the Marvel movies come to redefine what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, this movie has a big family component, and maybe even one of the most.”
Adds box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore: “Families were likely drawn by the Baby Groot character that was featured smartly front and center in most of the marketing for the film. Despite its PG-13 rating, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may be among the most family-friendly of all the superhero movies, and this paid off big time with a massive Saturday performance for the film.”
That wasn’t the only good news when it came to demos. According to comScore’s real-time exit polling service, females made up 43 percent of ticket buyers for Guardians Vol. 2, versus 39 percent for the first film. Younger moviegoers also turned out in larger numbers: 17 percent of ticket buyers were between the ages of 13-17, compared to 13 percent the first time out, while moviegoers between the ages of 18-24 jumped from 33 percent to 38 percent and those between the ages of 25-24, from 20 percent to 26 percent.
“Bucking the trend of the box office law of diminishing returns, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 joins a fairly exclusive club of over-performing second installments,” says Dergarabedian.
Gunn’s follow-up sees the return of Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, who brings his team back together to fight off evil forces while he seeks to unravel the mystery of his parentage. Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Karen Gillan also make a return, while newcomers include Elizabeth Debicki, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.
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