Director James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could rocket to $150 million or more in its North American blastoff this weekend.
The Marvel and Disney superhero sequel kicks off the summer season at the box office and is the first in a tentpole parade of sequels and franchise reboots.
Guardians Vol. 2 is expected to do laps around the first Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of respective opening numbers. No one was quite sure how the original film would perform, considering it featured a ragtag group of lessor-known superheroes. But Guardians of the Galaxy impressed by opening to $94.3 million domestically in early August 2014, on its way to grossing $773 million globally.
Disney and Marvel quickly moved forward on the sequel, which reteams Gunn with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper. Newcomers to the cast include Elizabeth Debicki, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.
The follow-up takes place three months after the events of the original and sees Star-Lord (Pratt) meet his father, Ego (Russell), for the first time. Along the way, the Guardians run afoul of golden alien Ayesha (Debicki), who is far from forgiving of their transgressions.
Overseas, Guardians Vol. 2 opened last weekend in its first raft of territories representing 58 percent of the marketplace. The film has earned nearly $150 million to date offshore. It debuts in a number of other major territories this weekend, including Russia (Thursday) and China (Friday). So far, it is pacing well ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy in many countries.
There is no other new nationwide offering this weekend. Debuting at the specialty box office are The Weinstein Co. transgender drama 3 Generations, with Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon headlining, and A24's middle-age marital tale The Lovers, starring Debra Winger and Tracy Letts.
Marvel and Disney have come to own the first weekend of summer. Their Captain America: Civil War kicked off with $179.1 million over the May 6-8 weekend last year.