Box Office Shocker: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Eyes $95M-Plus Debut

The stars of 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

UPDATED: The galactic superhero tentpole earned $11.2 million Thursday night alone, besting the $10.2 million earned in early April by fellow Marvel title "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy is soaring at the Friday box office for a possible $95 million-plus North American debut, far more than expected and marking  another sizeable victory for Marvel Studios as it launches a new franchise outside of the Avengers series.

The Marvel and Disney tentpole is on course to earn nearly $40 million on Friday alone, including $11.2 million from Thursday night, the best showing of the year so far. Trying to tame expectations, Disney insiders say the movie is on course to gross $85 million to $95 million for the weekend; rivals put it at $95 million or slightly higher.

Guardians will easily pass up the $69.2 million domestic debut of The Bourne Ultimatum to nab the top August opening of all time, not accounting for inflation. And if it rakes in more than $95 million by Sunday, it will surpass Captain America: The Winter Soldier to score the No. 2 opening of the year after Transformers: Age of Extinction ($100 million).

Heading into the weekend, the Marvel and Disney tentpole was projected to gross $65 million to $70 million in its domestic debut. The film's over-performance points to stellar word-of-mouth and its originality.

Still, Guardians of the Galaxy won't be able to rescue the ailing summer overall (revenue continues to be down 20 percent) but is a needed respite.

Featuring a rag-tag group of unlikely galactic heroes, Guardians stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace and Bradley Cooper, who voices the role of Rocket the raccoon. Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro also star.

Hype around Guardians has been so high that Marvel and Disney have already announced plans for a July 28, 2017 sequel, with Gunn returning to direct.

The movie's tone is much different than the Avengers franchise, and is laced with humor. "It's much more of a space opera than a superhero movie," Gunn said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Guardians is playing in roughly 4,080 theaters in North America, the widest August release ever (G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra played on 4,007).

Overseas, Guardians also did big business as it began rolling out Thursday, nabbing $11 million in a handful of markets, including $3.2 million in Russia and $2.3 million in the U.K.

Guardians wasn't a cheap proposition and cost $170 million to produce. That doesn't include Disney and Marvel's pricey marketing campaign.

This weekend's other new wide offering is James Brown biopic Get On Up, from The Help director Tate Taylor and starring Chadwick Boseman as the legendary godfather of soul. Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment produced the $30 million film with Mick Jagger.

Universal is handling the release of Get On Up, which is expected to open in the $15 million range after earning $371,000 Thursday night.