Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 rocketed to an estimated $145 million debut, kicking off Hollywood's summer movie season with something the movie business has been lacking: a sequel more successful than the original. Studio estimates released Sunday said James Gunn's second Guardians film opened 54% higher than the 2014 runaway hit. That release debuted with $94 million in its first weekend. Once a little-known, oddball property in Marvel's vault, the AP reports that Guardians of the Galaxy have grown into one of the comic-book factory's biggest brands.
The latest in the franchise marks the 15th straight No. 1 opening for Marvel Studios, notes CNN, and its fifth biggest debut overall. Guardians currently has a 81% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though audience ratings push that number to 90%. The Walt Disney Co. validated Guardians, too, by moving it to the first weekend in May, the start of the lucrative summer movie season. Fearing the might of Guardians, no other major studio releases debuted over the weekend.