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Box Office: Is Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' One for the Record Books?

By Steve Symington – Aug 1, 2014 at 11:37AM

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Is Guardians set to be the biggest-ever August movie?

Disney stock, Guardians of the Galaxy

Disney Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is poised for a huge opening weekend, Credit: Disney/Marvel

Disney (DIS -2.21%) Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy appears set for a big open at the box office this weekend.

Bigger, in fact, than any other August movie in history.

Curiously, early tracking "only" had Guardians of the Galaxy set to open around $65 million, which wouldn't be enough to break The Bourne Ultimatum's current $69.3 million August weekend record. However, Fandango just confirmed that Guardians has officially become its top August pre-seller of all time, capturing 93% of the weekend's ticket sales and handily beating pre-sales for The Bourne Ultimatum.

In addition, Guardians is now the top pre-seller among non-sequels so far in 2014, exceeding even The Lego Movie, which opened to a little over $69 million in early February. If movie-goers' early enthusiasm holds through the weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if Guardians easily crashes through the $70 million mark come Monday.

That would naturally be a huge win for Disney's Marvel cinematic universe. Remember, Guardians not only marks the Disney MCU's first-ever August opening, but also arguably represents its most fantastical storyline yet as an "epic space adventure" with quirky humor -- complete with a talking, gun-toting raccoon and his giant tree-esque companion. In fact, despite my own initial excitement for Guardians, that's why I found myself worrying earlier this year when Disney's veritable hype machine had seemingly yet to truly ramp its efforts to begin promoting the film.

Disney stock, Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt stars as Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Credit: Disney/Marvel

Here's how high could Guardians fly
So how well might Guardians of the Galaxy perform by the end of its worldwide theatrical run?

For perspective, the first Thor gathered roughly $65.7 million during its own opening weekend in May 2011, before going on to collect roughly $449.3 million in gross ticket receipts worldwide, including $181 million domestically. But that also meant Thor only gathered 59.7% of its total -- or $268.3 million -- from international audiences, compared to 68% for Thor: The Dark World. To explain the difference, keep in mind the Marvel cinematic universe has enjoyed a significantly larger foreign fan base with each successive movie.

So let's do some back-of-then napkin math. If Guardians of the Galaxy exceeds the $70 million mark this weekend, that should put its overall domestic performance right around $195 million. Assuming a similar domestic/international split as Thor: The Dark World -- which gives us a multiple of 0.68/0.32, or 2.125 -- that means roughly $414.4 million overseas.

Put 'em together -- and keeping in mind this is a very rough estimate -- Guardians of the Galaxy could exceed $600 million in global ticket sales when all is said and done. Of course, that may not sound all that impressive given the $1.21 billion and $1.52 billion respective tallies achieved by Iron Man 3 and Marvel's The Avengers, but it's not too shabby for Disney given Guardians' more modest $170 million production budget.   

But we also have to ask: What could derail Guardians' success? First and foremost, I'll be keeping an eye on its CinemaScore rating -- which measures audience engagement -- to see how exiting audiences respond to the film. Anything better than or equal to an A-, which is what Thor: The Dark World achieved, and it's a relatively safe bet movie-goers won't hesitate to pursue repeat viewings and give Guardians of the Galaxy positive word of mouth.

And opening up a new portion of the galaxy could have vast potential for Disney -- sequels, spinoffs, and more.

In the meantime you should gear up, Marvel fans, because this should be a fun ride.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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