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‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Is a More Modest Marvel, but It May Be the Summer’s Last Major Opening

The latest Marvel movie opened to $76 million, and it may be the last time the 2018 summer box office sees an opening at that level.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

“Ant-Man and the Wasp”

It’s the first full weekend of July, but it looks like the summer’s top openers will all have opened prior to Independence Day. The last real shot at another $100 million+ opening was this weekend’s “The Ant-Man and the Wasp,”  the fourth Marvel release in five months. It ended up with a decent but not spectacular $76 million.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp”

That would make it the lowest Marvel opener of the year, the first not to pass $100 million, and a gross below the disappointing start for “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” It’s lower than the last 10 Marvel opening weekends. (“X-Men: Apocalypse” just over two years ago the last disappointing result.)

So is this a problem? Context matters, and what’s relevant here is this is a sequel to a Marvel sub-franchise. The first “Ant-Man” opened mid-July to an adjusted total of $63 million, so this is about a 20 percent improvement.

Though this is not an inexpensive film (production budget estimated around $160 million), it should end with an adequate return. Why? Apart from lower costs, initial grosses show international a bit higher than domestic. And that’s without most of Western Europe (World Cup-related), China, and Japan. That suggests a chance at $500 million or more worldwide ($600 million in reach).

So “Ant-Man” will never be “Spider-Man,” but a $76 million opening is welcome, and could be the highest we’ll see until the fall. Last summer, only two films opened over $50 million after this point. We’ll likely equal or pass that, but the summer’s fireworks have passed.

The other opener, “The First Purge,” debuted Wednesday to take advantage of the holiday. It’s the fourth in “The Purge” franchise and its $31 million, five-day figure matches the range of the prior efforts in the Blumhouse Productions series. This one cost a bit more ($13 million) and made more of a direct appeal to African-American audiences. Like Blumhouse’s “Get Out,” the story combines social context with an action-oriented story.

Had this opened on a Friday and done $25 million, it would have been an anomaly. With all the high-end openings, this would have been the first to open between $20 million and $40 million since “Rampage” in April. Once again, the Blumhouse has an above-average ability to come out ahead of industry trends.

Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) opens fire on the Mexican police ambushing the humvee convoy.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado”

Richard Foreman

Among recent openers that fit into standard opening levels were last week’s “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” (Sony) and “Uncle Drew” (Lionsgate). The sequel to the 2016 drug cartel success dropped an above-average 61 percent this weekend, with now little chance it will equal its domestic total for the original even though it opened wide much better. As a template for a wider array of sequels, unless there’s some unexpected boost from international, it doesn’t look like it succeeded.

“Uncle Drew” dropped 56 percent. It’s a lower budget title, and dependent most on domestic returns. It could get to $45 million and perhaps ultimately in the black, but so far doesn’t look it will spawn further action.

Buried in the grosses is an interesting flip-flop. “Incredibles 2” (Disney) released one week earlier than “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (Universal), held on to #2, slightly edging the dinosaur sequel.

The Pixar film might actually be the biggest surprise of the summer. Certainly it was expected to do well. But sometime this week it will surpass the two “Finding (Nemo and Dory)” films to become the studio’s biggest hit ever while still in only week four.

The best hold in the Top 10 (other than the expanding “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”) came from “Ocean’s 8” (Warner Bros.). The female reboot of the caper series fell 37 percent after shedding over 800 theaters. Even so, its per-screen average was not far below last weekend’s. Its gross is now about what “Ghostbusters” two years ago. That similar distaff makeover was roundly chastised as a flop. The difference was it cost much more. The key to success for “Ocean’s 8” includes a reasonable budget. It should be noted that its cost (around $70 million) quite often is a dangerous range; the film’s continued appeal deserves attention.

The Top 10

1. Ant-Man and the Wasp (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 70; Est. budget: $162 million

$76,030,000 in 4,206 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $18,077; Cumulative: $76,030,000

2. Incredibles 2 (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$29,021,000 (-37%) in 4,113 theaters (-297); PTA: $7,056; Cumulative: $504,382,000

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$28,585,000 (-53%) in 4,349 theaters (-136); PTA: $6,573; Cumulative: $333,343,000

4. The First Purge (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore:; Metacritic: 54; Est. budget: $

$17,150,000 in 3,031 theaters; PTA: $5,658; Cumulative: $31,054,000

5. Sicario: Day of the Soldato (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$7,300,000 (-62%) in 3,055 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,390; Cumulative: $35,302,000

6. Uncle Drew (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$6,625,000 (-56%) in 2,742 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,416; Cumulative: $29,949,000

7. Ocean’s 8 (Warner Bros.) Week 6; Last weekend #5

$5,285,000 (-37%) in 2,604 theaters (-822); PTA: $2,030; Cumulative: $126,751,000

8. Tag (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$3,105,000 (-47%) in 2,157 theaters (-1,019); PTA: $1,439; Cumulative: $48,331,000

9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus) Week 5; Last weekend #10

$2,590,000 (+7%) in 893 theaters (+239); PTA: $2,900; Cumulative: $12,383,000

10. Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox) Week; Last weekend #7

$1,675,000 (-53%) in 1,267 theaters (-583); PTA: $1,322; Cumulative: $314,546,000

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