news ‘Guardians Vol. 3’ Opens to Lower Box Office than Any Disney First-of-Summer Marvel Movie Ever

Yes, anytime a film opens over $100 million is a positive event for theaters. And yes, for Marvel and Disney, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is an improvement over the lesser initial take for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ($106 million first weekend last February). Correct also is that it’s the second best opening of the year.

But the elephant in the room exists. Since 2013, Disney has opened their top summer season Marvel release on this date (and also, the last weekend in April twice): Without even having to adjust for inflation, the new “Guardians,” with $114 million for its U.S./Canada gross, ranks dead last — nine out of nine. The falloff from last year’s entry (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”) is steep — down $73 million from that one. And “Strange” was a sequel to a lesser series release than “Guardians.” This should be sobering: “Vol. 2,” on this same weekend in 2017, grossed at current ticket prices around $170 million.

Again, this “Guardians” is an asset for theaters for sure. And one film hardly defines the trajectory of the summer. But it is the first high-expectation release since Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (“SMB”) debuted a month ago, and the first test of the hope that its extraordinary response might suggest a higher potential for other upcoming films. In this case, no.

The initial numbers do suggest that “Guardians” will hold better than “Quantumania,” though. Thursday previews and Friday were almost even with the previous Marvel release. But Saturday’s gross was up 17 percent. That reflects its A Cinemascore (historically typical for Marvel titles), rather than the lowly B in February.

“Quantumania” ended up at only $214 million domestic, $475 million worldwide. That is rock-bottom for Marvel titles. This “Guardians” so far is already at $282 million adding initial foreign totals. The U.S./Canada take looks capable of reaching $300 million.

That sounds decent expect for two things. It would again make it the lowest among all late April/early May Marvel releases even without adjusting for inflation. And the reported budget is as high as $250 million before a likely $100 million or higher marketing expense. In the past, these films have usually recouped their expenses theatrically before getting the added benefit of post-theatrical revenues. This one is going to need them.

With all the attention in the comic book universe of how DC needs revamping, the reality is Marvel, though still performing better by default on most films, is falling off. That makes the success of “SMB” that much more critical, not just as one film, but also suggesting that as interest decreases for Marvel blockbusters it might be transferred over to fresher entries. We’ll see over the next few weeks.

Sam Heughan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Love Again

“Love Again”Sony Pictures

“Guardians” took in over 70 percent of the weekend’s total of $157 million. Even though it skewed heavily (60 percent) male, the impact across the board was steep. No holdover fell less than 50 percent. Sony tried to counter with the rom-com “Love Again” with the intriguing casting of “Outlander” star Sam Heughan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Celine Dion, playing a fictionalized version of herself. For their efforts (and fortunately only a $9 million production cost), they got a gross of under $2.5 million in 2,703 theaters. That’s the second straight week for a Sony title (“Big George Foreman” previously) debuting around that level.

“SMB” fell 54 percent, with an $18.6 million total after four weekends over $40 million. It is at $518 million, with now a more likely $600 million U.S./Canada final gross. Still spectacular, and clearly still the film to beat as best of 2023.

Though it fell to just over $5 million in its third weekend, “Evil Dead Rise” (Warner Bros. Discovery) has reached $54 million, a decent result for a film with a sub-$20 million budget. However, any hope that “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” (Lionsgate) might recover from its weak debut were dashed by a 50 percent drop. The Judy Blume adaptation, with some of the best reviews of the year, will struggle to hit $20 million.

After a huge April, May starts with a weekend that fell short of the same in 2022 ($222 million total). The year to date comparison decline, comparing the whole of 2023 to date to this point in 2022, is still a strong 32 percent better. That pace, if upheld, would bring 2023 to just under $9.8 billion for the U.S./Canada box office as a whole. For the first time since “SMB” opened though, the ongoing four-week rolling total versus 2019 fell to lower ( about 88 percent of the 2019 number, or a 12 percent fall) than that year.

Chile '76

“Chile ’76”Courtesy Kino Lorber

Specialized remains mostly bleak. Among new releases, “Chile ’76” (Kino Lorber) scored best, with $16,000 in two theaters. “The Eight Mountains” (Sideshow/Janus) added two theaters to get to four, but fell short of its initial response with a per theater average of $4,000. “R.M.N.” (IFC) went quite wide its second week, but only grossed $11,000 in 41 theaters. “Beau Is Afraid” (A24) lost three quarters of its theaters with a $334,000 gross in 510 theaters. At $6.7 million, Ari Aster’s latest and by far most expensive genre entry looks to reach at best $8 million, a big drop from past performance.

The Top 10​

1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 65; Est. budget: $250 million

$114,000,000 in 4,450 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $25,618,000; Cumulative: $114,000,000

2. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #1

$18,600,000 (-54%) in 3,909 (-295) theaters; PTA: $4,758; Cumulative: $518,128,000

3. Evil Dead Rise (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$5,730,000 (-53%) in 3,036 (-381) theaters; PTA: $1,887; Cumulative: $54,101,000

4. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$3,338,000 (-50%) in 3,343 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,011; Cumulative: $12,647,400

5. Love Again (Sony) NEW; Metacritic: 34; Est. budget: $9 million

$2,425,000 in 2,703 theaters; PTA: $897; Cumulative: $2,425,000

6. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) Week 7; Last weekend #5

$2,359,000 (-52%) in 1,658 (-823) theaters; PTA: $1,423; Cumulative: $180,056,000

7. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$1,515,000 (-64%) in 1,751 (-958) theaters; PTA: $865; Cumulative: $90,937,000

8. Air (MGM) Week 5; Last weekend #7

$1,396,000 (-65%) in 1,632 (-770) theaters; PTA: $855; Cumulative: $50,247,000

9. The Covenant (MGM) Week 3; Last weekend #9

$1,222,000 (-66%) in 1,807 (-824) theaters; PTA: $676; Cumulative: $14,780,000

10. Sisu (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #10

$1,083,000 (67%) in 1,006 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,077; Cumulative: $5,548,000

Other specialized titles​

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

NEW – Metacritic:; Festivals include:

$ in theaters; PTA: $

Chile ’76 (Kino Lorber) NEW – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes 2022, New Directors/New Films 2023

$16,038 in theaters; PTA: $8,019

The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons NEW – Festivals include: Chicago 2022

$6,250 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,250

The Eight Mountains (Sideshow/Janus) Week 2

$16,022 in 4 (+2) theaters; PTA: $4,006; Cumulative: $57,358

Polite Society (Focus) Week 2

$215,000 in 702 (-225) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $1,333,000

32 Sounds (Abramorama) Week 2 1

$4,012 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,012; Cumulative: $27,909

R.M.N. (IFC) Week 2

$11,000 in 41 (+39) theaters; PTA: $268; Cumulative: $22,101

Chevalier (Searchlight) Week 3

$82,000 in 155 (-1,126) theaters; Cumulative: $3,168,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside Attractions) Week 3

$74,430 in 122 (-377) theaters; Cumulative: $1,527,000

Other People’s Children (Music Box) Week 3

$5,323 in 8 (+1) theaters; Cumulative: $48,145

Carmen (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$9,583 in 19 (+8) in theaters; Cumulative: $40,045

Beau Is Afraid (A24) Week 4

$333,543 in 510 (-1,615) theaters; Cumulative: $6,743,000

Suzume (Sony) Week 4

$205,000 in 116 (-324) theaters; Cumulative: $10,249,000

Wild Life (Picturehouse) Week 4 13

$37,067 in 30 (+17) theaters; Cumulative: $231,444

Showing Up (A24) Week 5

$44,853 in 102 (-13) theaters; Cumulative: $642,105

Joyland (Oscilloscope) Week 5

$30,241 in 34 (+4) theaters; Cumulative: $185,430