NEW YORK (AP) — Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have had a rocky start, but Ant-Man is bigger than ever at the box office.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” opened with $104 million in domestic ticket sales, the studio estimated on Sunday, easily surpassing the box office debuts of the previous two Ant-Man films. The Walt Disney Co.’s “Quantumania” added another $121.3 million overseas to give the little hero a $225 million global launch.
It’s easily the biggest opening of the year so far. And “Quantumania” did it despite an atypically poor reception for the MCU’s 31st film. “Quantumania,” starring Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror, sits at 48% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the only MCU film ranked as rotten next to to “The Eternals” (47%).
Additionally, audiences weren’t thrilled with “Quantumania”, awarding it a “B” CinemaScore. “The Eternals” is the only other MCU film to receive such a low CinemaScore.
These scores will be the biggest concern for Marvel as it continues to roll out Phase Five of the MCU, following mixed reviews for the post “Avengers: Eternals” Phase Four of the comic book franchise. Up next is “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in May.
But positive reviews or not, theaters are hoping “Quantumania” – the first blockbuster of the year – is a sign of things to come. After the turbulence of the past three years, another 30 large exits are planned for 2023.
“It’s going to look almost like a pre-pandemic movie theater environment in terms of the market in the coming weeks,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “It’s great news coming from two, three very tumultuous years. This is the beginning of many months for this industry. We’ve been in a sort of waiting room with leftovers like ‘Avatar’ and others.”
The first “Ant-Man” launched with $57.2 million domestically in 2015, the smallest opening for any film in the MCU. It ultimately earned $519.3 million worldwide. Its sequel, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ debuted three years later to $75.8 million and raised $622.7 million globally.
China was vital to both releases, each exceeding $100 million. But in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, fewer American films have secured major releases in the heavily regulated Chinese market. Not since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019 has a Disney release opened simultaneously in the United States and China.
Whether or not China will ever get back to those pre-pandemic numbers for US films remains to be seen, especially as tensions continue to escalate over China’s balloon surveillance program. “Quantumania” grossed $19 million over the weekend in China.
In its tenth weekend of release, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water remained in second place with $6.4 million. With $2.243 billion worldwide, Cameron’s sci-fi sequel just surpassed “Titanic” — currently back in theaters for its 25th anniversary — as the third highest-grossing film ever. Now, only “Avatar” and 2009’s “Avengers: Endgame” stand above “The Way of Water.”
Last week’s Best Picture, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” slipped to third place with $5.5 million. Channing Tatum’s sequel raised $18.1 million in two weeks.
In fourth place came Universal’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which since late December has enjoyed an unusually long run in theaters as the best family-friendly option. With $5.3 million over the weekend, it totaled $167 million domestically and over $400 million worldwide.
Only one new film has been released in a large scale against “Quantumania”. Open Road and Briarcliff Entertainment debuted “Marlowe,” starring Liam Neeson as Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye, at 2,281 locations. “Marlowe,” however, only raised $1.9 million.
Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday in US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore, with Wednesday through Sunday in parentheses. Final country figures will be released on Monday.
1. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” $104 million.
2. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” $6.1 million.
3. “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” $5.5 million.
4. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” $5.3 million.
5. “Knock on the Booth,” $3.9 million.
6. “80 for Brady,” $3.6 million.
7. “Titanic”, $2.3 million.
8. “Marlowe,” $1.9 million.
9. “Missing,” $1.7 million.
10. “A Man Named Otto,” $1.6 million.
This story was corrected to correct the originally transposed “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” ratings.
Follow AP Film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: