"Guardians of the Galaxy" could give the summer box office a cosmic boost 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, while Universal Pictures' James Brown biopic "Get On Up" could bring in $18 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
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."
Walt Disney Studios expects "Guardians of the Galaxy," which cost about $170 million to make, to gross a more conservative $60 million to $65 million this weekend.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at the entertainment data firm Rentrak, said Marvel's brand is part of the draw.
"Usually you have to either have a star or be a known commodity like a sequel that's part of a known franchise," he said. "But 'Guardians' falls under that Marvel umbrella and thus has a tremendous amount of cachet with audiences."
Opening a week after Comic-Con is an added advantage, Dergarabedian said.
Fandango, the nation's largest online movie ticket company, said Wednesday that the upcoming Marvel film is poised to be the biggest August pre-seller in the company's history.
The film captured 93% of this weekend's ticket sales on Fandango and scored 94 out of 100 points on the company's "fanticipation" movie buzz indicator.
It also is getting generally positive responses from critics, averaging 89% on the "tomatometer" as of Thursday.
Directed by Tate Taylor, "Get On Up," starring Chadwick Boseman as Brown, follows the music icon's journey to fame.
The roughly $30-million film is tracking well, especially among older and African American audiences.
"We're very happy with 'Lucy' and now we're gearing up for 'Get on Up,'" Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution, told The Times.
Rocco said she would be happy if the film performed in the "low teens."
"'Guardians' is a different kind of broad appeal movie," she said. "My expectations [for 'Get On Up'] are what they are, but we're all extremely proud of this movie and the performances are outstanding."
So far, the film has been well-received. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film averaged 80% on the "tomatometer."
In a New York Daily News opinion piece, Rev. Al Sharpton, who was close with Brown, called the film "substantial."
"The movie shows a lot of different parts of James Brown and I can tell you that he was all of those parts…. I think James would have been pleased with it," Sharpton wrote in the article.
Though the film may not be a blockbuster, Dergarabedian said the Brown biopic is a "perfect counter program" to "Guardians."
"For those who are not all about the superhero world, James Brown is a different kind of superhero," he said. "Nobody expects the film to top the weekend but I think it offers up a wonderful alternative to the other typical summer movies that are out there."
"Lucy," distributed by Universal, and "Hercules," co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures, will enter their second weekends at the box office.
Elsewhere, "A Most Wanted Man," starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, will expand to 727 screens, according to Box Office Mojo.