"Guardians of the Galaxy" blasted off at the box office on Thursday night, grossing $11.2 million in its evening showings.
Director James Gunn's "Guardians" film, starring Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Zoe Saldana, is the latest from Disney's Marvel Studios, the unit behind blockbuster franchises such as "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers."
The release topped the start for Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which grossed $10.2 million in its Thursday release. It also beat the $9.3-million start for "Godzilla," the $8.75-million start for "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and the $8.7-million start for "Amazing Spider-Man 2."
Walt Disney Studios expects "Guardians of the Galaxy," which cost about $170 million to make, to gross $60 million to $65 million this weekend.
The sci-fi action film is expected to gross $70 million to $75 million in ticket sales through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen prerelease audience surveys.
"Clearly, Marvel is a magic word at the box office right now," Fandango chief correspondent Dave Karger told the Los Angeles Times.
Karger said these are the biggest numbers that Fandango has seen for any nonsequel this year.
"The movie on paper sounded crazy because it's a comic book no one's heard of, a raccoon that talks, a wrestler in one of the lead roles and the guy from 'Parks and Recreation' as the hero," Karger said. "But now we know, of course, the raccoon steals the movie, the wrestler holds his own and Chris Pratt is a leading man."
People "will probably expect a bigger opening weekend now," Karger added.
On Rotten Tomatos, the film received a 92% rating on the "tomatometer," as of Friday.