Forget the naysayers. After last weekend's record-setting box office debut, Disney (NYSE: DIS ) Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is officially a huge hit.
Guardians just pulled in an amazing $94.3 million in gross ticket sales over its first weekend. That easily exceeded preliminary tracking, which had called for a modest $65 million open, and absolutely crushed the old $69.3 million August weekend record held by 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum. Audiences loved Guardians as well, granting it an enviable "A" CinemaScore and virtually guaranteeing it'll benefit from both repeat viewings and positive word of mouth.
That's not to say Guardians' performance came as a complete shock. Only a few days ago, I wondered in print whether Marvel's latest blockbuster would be one for the record books. But even then, I only suggested Disney investors should be pleased if Guardians managed to break through $70 million with its weekend debut. To do so, I elaborated, would have meant a potential worldwide gross of more than $600 million. Keeping in mind Disney generally needs any given film to achieve roughly double its production budget to turn a profit, that would have been an admirable performance given Guardians' relatively "modest" $170 million price tag.
Guardians is even bigger than you think
Now, however, we have some added visibility following weekend one. So let's revise those numbers, shall we?
First, keep in mind Captain America: The Winter Soldier also received an "A" CinemaScore earlier this year, and went on to collect $259.3 million domestically following its own $95 million weekend debut. Considering audience's reception of Guardians' unique humor and its solid $94.3 million domestic weekend opening, a $260 million domestic cume certainly isn't out of the question.
International is a bit trickier now -- Guardians managed to gross $66.4 million so far after opening to roughly half its eventual foreign audience base. By contrast, Thor 2 at this point in its theatrical run last year had already grabbed around $99.3 million from roughly 70% of its international base. Average out those percentages, however, and it looks like Guardians of the Galaxy is tracking roughly in line with the international progress of its Asgardian predecessor, which ultimately collected around 68% of its sales overseas.
If Guardians follows suit, it would see an international total of around $550 million, which would push its global gross in excess of $800 million. For reference, that would make Guardians of the Galaxy the third-biggest Marvel film to date -- well ahead of the $713.6 million achieved by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and trailing only the monstrous $1.52 billion and $1.22 billion grosses achieved by Marvel's The Avengers and Iron Man 3, respectively.
Here's what to watch now
So where does that leave investors today? First, watch how Guardians holds up next weekend at the domestic box office. If sales decline at a rate anywhere in the range of 55% to 58% -- or in line with both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World -- it should be in good shape over the long run. Next, keep an eye on whether international audiences still embrace Guardians as it continues to roll out to new markets.
That said, following Guardian's bigger-than-expected debut, it seems safe to assume most of its surprises are already out of the way. For now, Disney investors should be able to kick back and enjoy the show.
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