Ant-Man and the Wasp buzzes to $76m debut at the US box office


New York — Despite its heroes' diminutive size, Ant-Man and the Wasp opened with typical Marvel might at the box office, with an estimated $76m in ticket sales.

According to studio estimates Sunday, the Ant-Man sequel easily surpassed the $57m 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 solidly within of our range and definitely sized-up the sequel," said Taff.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, with a reported production budget of about $160m, 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 $85m.

Befitting the summer season, the weekend's top five films were all sequels. The weekend's other new wide release was Blumhouse Productions' The First Purge, the fourth film in the low-budget horror franchise about an annual 12-hour period of lawlessness. 
The First Purge debuted with $32m over the five-day frame, and $18.5m 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 over-deliver 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."

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 $29m in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $504m and its worldwide haul to $773m.

With $28.6m in its third weekend, Universal's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom crossed $1bn worldwide. It's done especially well internationally.

As a clear alternative to the multiplex offerings, the Mister Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbour 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 $12.4m in five weeks, it's the year's top documentary at the box office, edging out the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc RBG.

Boots Riley's surreal satire "Sorry to Bother You," starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, made one of the year's best debuts, per-screen. The acclaimed Annapurna Pictures release opened with $717 302 on 16 screens, good for a per-screen average of $44 831. The directorial debut of the hip-hop pioneer Riley, Sorry to Bother You is about a black telemarketer who's catapulted into success after he adopts a "white voice."

Movie theatres in China were packed by a based-on-a-true-story black comedy about a man who becomes a saviour to leukaemia patients by smuggling cheaper generic drugs from India. The Chinese film Dying to Survive, which has drawn comparisons to the AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club, opened with $146m in the world's second largest movie market, according to comScore.