Box Office: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Opens to $118.4M in U.S. After Heroic Sunday

James Gunn's final film for Marvel fared even better overseas for a global start north of $289.3 million. 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 $118.4 million, well behind the last film in the stand-alone Marvel Studios franchise but enough to prove that the new movie is already benefiting from strong audience sentiment.

Final numbers are higher than Sunday’s $114 million estimate, thanks to an extraordinary Saturday-to-Sunday hold for a Marvel pic (or any event title). The film was down 18 percent; in the Marvel family, only Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War saw the same, or slightly better, holds. And compared to recent fare, Guardians 3 saw less of a Saturday-to-Sunday drop than The Super Mario Bros. Movie (28 percent).

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The news was even better overseas, where the superhero pic placed No. 1 everywhere, starting off with a better-than-expected $170.9 million from 52 markets for a worldwide debut of $289.3 million (Sunday’s global estimate was $282.1 million). China led with $28.1 million, followed by the U.K. ($14.7 million), South Korea ($13.6 million), Mexico ($13 million) and France ($8.2 million).

In China, Guardians 3 came in at 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 that support is 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 consumers, with Guardians 3 sporting the lowest Rotten Tomatoes critics score of the three films in the franchise.

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.

It’s unusual for a title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to open behind the previous installment in a respective series but not unheard of. Sequels that didn’t open as high include Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which was released as the COVID-19 pandemic still raged, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Guardians 3 opened on par with recent Marvel pic Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which posted a series-best domestic opening of $106 million and $120 million for the four-day Presidents Day weekend. That movie, however, was ultimately considered a disappointment after topping out at less than $500 million, a franchise low.

The Guardians threequel continues a long tradition of Marvel movies kicking off the summer season at the box office.

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Heading into the weekend, most recent tracking showed Guardians 3 opening in the $110 million to $120 million range domestically. Initial tracking showed it launching to $130 million, so the drop no doubt concerned Marvel and Disney.

Guardians 3 reunites Gunn with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Newcomers include Chukwudi Iwuji as villain the High Evolutionary and Will Poulter, who plays classic Marvel character Adam Warlock.

The movie did huge business for Imax and premium format screens, which delivered 40 percent of the business. Imax alone turned in $25 million on a global basis.

After ruling the roost for four weekends, Universal and Illumination’s billion-dollar blockbuster The Super Mario Bros. Movie — with Mario voiced by Pratt — finally fell to No. 2 with an estimated $18.6 million for a hefty domestic total of $518.2 million and north of $1.16 billion globally.

Warner Bros.’ Evil Dead Rise jumped the $100 million mark globally in its third weekend. In North America, it came in at No. 3 with $5.7 million for a domestic tally of $54.1 million. Overseas, it earned another $9.1 million from 63 markets for a foreign cume of $60.7 million and $114.8 million worldwide. The pic’s performance at the international box office is impressive considering that horror doesn’t always travel well.

Lionsgate’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret came in fourth in its sophomore weekend with $3.4 million for a domestic tally of $12.6 million

Rounding out the top five was Screen Gems and Sony’s romantic comedy Love Again, which dared to open opposite Guardians 3 since it’s going after a different audience (females). The movie was DOA in its debut, grossing just $2.4 million.

Written and directed by Jim Strouse, Love Again stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan and Celine Dion (who provided multiple new songs).

May 8, 7:45 a.m. Updated with final domestic numbers.

This story was originally published on May 6 at 8:13 a.m.