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NEW YORK (AP) — Despite its heroes' diminutive size, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" opened with typical Marvel might at the box office, with an estimated $76 million in ticket sales.
According to studio estimates Sunday, the "Ant-Man" sequel easily surpassed the $57 million debut of the 2015 original in North America. The 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the 20th to debut no. 1 at the box office — "Ant-Man and the Wasp" comes on the heels of two mammoth Marvel successes this year: "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Infinity War."
While the first "Ant-Man," starring Paul Rudd, had a rocky road to release due to a late director change, the rollout of the sequel, directed by Peyton Reed, was smoother. Cathleen Taff, head of distribution for Disney, credited a marketing campaign that played up the film as a more modest, funny and light-hearted change-of-pace for Marvel following the grandiosity of "Infinity War."
"It came in at the high end of our range and definitely sized-up the sequel," said Taff.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp," with a reported production budget of about $160 million, may have performed well enough to firmly establish its place among Marvel's more main-line superheroes. Reviews were good (86 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences gave it an A-minus CinemaScore. Ticket sales overseas added another $85 million.
Befitting the summer season, the weekend's top five films were all sequels. The weekend's other new wide release was Blumhouse Productions' "First Purge," the fourth film in the low-budget horror franchise about an annual 12-hour period of lawlessness. With July 4th falling on a Wednesday and thus depriving Hollywood of a holiday weekend, Universal opted to release "First Purge" on Wednesday, while "Ant-Man" waited for the customary Thursday night previews.
"First Purge" debuted with $32 million over the five-day frame, and $18.5 million for the weekend. Particularly following 2016's "The Purge: Election Year," the franchise has made satirical jabs at social commentary. "First Purge," a Staten Island-set prequel, focuses on the ritual's origins as a method of culling minorities.
"Blumhouse just continues to overdeliver for us," said Jim Orr, distribution chief for Blumhouse's distribution partner, Universal. "The Purge franchise continually comments on issues that are current in society, obviously through a kind of dark and distorted lens. Tying it to the July Fourth holiday made a lot of sense."
Some Los Angeles theaters overperformed, executives said, likely due to those seeking air conditioning during the Southern California heat wave. But whether due to travel- or weather-related reasons, nationwide ticket sales were unexpectedly soft on Saturday. The weekend was about 10 percent off the pace of the same weekend last year, when "Spider-Man: Homecoming" opened, according to comScore. But the summer box office overall, up 13.5 percent from last year, remains robust.
The films that trailed "Ant-Man" hit their own milestones. Disney's "Incredibles 2" passed "Finding Dory" to become Pixar's top-grossing film domestically, not accounting for inflation. It earned $29 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $504 million and its worldwide haul to $773 million.
With $28.6 million in its third weekend, Universal's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" crossed $1 billion worldwide. It's done especially well internationally, which has made up 69 percent of the dinosaur sequel's global footprint.
As a clear alternative to the multiplex offerings, the "Mister Rogers" documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" continued to perform as an art-house sensation. Ranking ninth for the weekend (in between "Tag" and "Deadpool 2"), the Focus Features release earned $2.6 million in 893 theaters over the weekend. With $12.4 million in five weeks, it's the year's top documentary at the box office, edging out the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc "RBG."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Ant-Man and the Wasp," $76 million.
2. "Incredibles 2," $29 million.
3. "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," $28.6 million.
4. "The First Purge," $17.2 million.
5. "Sicario: Day of the Soldado," $7.3 million.
6. "Uncle Drew," $6.6 million.
7. "Ocean's 8," $5.3 million.
8. "Tag," $3.1 million.
9. "Won't You Be My Neighbor," $2.6 million.
10. "Deadpool 2," $1.7 million.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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