Walt Disney hopes it has another blockbuster on its hands with a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel expected to have a huge debut when it hits U.S. theaters this weekend.
Industry forecasts for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the latest comic book adaptation from Disney's Marvel Studios, have the film hauling in anywhere from $125 million to almost $160 million for its first weekend in domestic theaters. That would easily outpace the weekend debut of the movie's predecessor after the first Guardians movie grossed about $94 million domestically in August 2014, which would make the new film one of the rare cases where a sequel out-grosses the opening of a franchise's first installment.
The first Guardians movie went on to gross more than $770 million worldwide after connecting with audiences around the world with its mix of action and comedy, as well as its cast led by actor Chris Pratt (Jurassic World).
According to Disney, the movie raked in roughly $17 million from Thursday night preview showings across the country last night. That marks the year's biggest preview night to date—even bigger than Universal's Fate of the Furious, which pulled in just under $16 million in previews last month on its way to more than $1.1 billion in global box office sales (and counting).
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Meanwhile, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is already a success overseas. The movie debuted in about 58% of the international marketplace last weekend and it has already grossed $167 million overseas so far, according to Box Office Mojo.
If the movie can continue its box office success—both domestically and overseas—then Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could be eyeing a worldwide box-office total in the area of $1 billion. The movie would become Disney's second of the year to top the billion-dollar mark, if it does hit that lofty goal, after the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast tallied more than $1.1 billion for the Mouse House after its March release.
It would certainly be a great start to 2017, though not necessarily a surprising one, for Disney to have its first two films released this year gross more than $1 billion apiece. Last year, the company's film division had a record-breaking year with four separate billion-dollar films, and Disney is already on track for another blockbuster year at the box office. The company has a robust slate of new films coming out this year that includes another Marvel film (November's Thor: Ragnarok) and an animated sequel from Pixar (Cars 3 next month), culminating with the December release of the highly-anticipated new installment from the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the movie should benefit from weak competition at the domestic box office in the near future, with no rival wide-release films hitting theaters this weekend. In fact, the next film to be released in the U.S. that would potentially challenge the Disney superhero movie for box office supremacy is 21st Century Fox's Alien franchise update, Alien: Covenant, on May 19.