A battle starring heroic insect people or an origin story on a murderous human purge?
This weekend, movie-goers opted for the fun-loving hymenopteran fight -- to the tune of $76 million -- as Disney-Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” reigned supreme at the box office over a pair of steadfast family franchises and the arrival of “The First Purge,” the fourth installment of Universal’s herd-thinning series.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” brought in another $85 million overseas for a combined $161 million in sales, according to box office measurement firm comScore. That’s good news for Disney, as the sequel to the comedic “Ant-Man,” which co-stars Paul Rudd as the titular superhero and Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, outpaced ticket sales for the 2015 debut by 33% and earned a positive Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%.
Reviewing “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” The Times’ Justin Chang celebrated it as “a movie of deliberately low stakes and, for that very reason, enormous charm.”
The film is the 20th consecutive Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to debut at the top. Since the comic book company’s “Iron Man” debut in 2008, the many other offshoots set in the MCU, as it’s otherwise known, have earned nearly $20 billion at the box office, according to comScore.
“The First Purge,” which opened on Wednesday, earned $17.2 million in its first weekend for a combined five-day total of $31.1 million.
That performance wasn’t enough to out-earn two kid-friendly franchises released earlier in the summer. A month into its run, Disney-Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” earned $29 million to land in second place, along the way surpassing the $500-million mark in North America and $773 million worldwide.
Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” came in third with a $28.6-million haul over three days in its third week of release for a North American total of $333.4 million. Internationally, movie-goers have spent $1 billion to watch Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard wrangle pterodactyls.
The fourth-place finish by “The First Purge” fell just short of the expectations of analysts who had predicted an opening on par with last year’s “The Purge: Election Year.” That one brought in $36 million over four days. The new prequel didn’t satisfy too many fans, who gave it a score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, Universal and Blumhouse accountants likely aren’t sweating it: The movie had a $13-million budget.
The fifth highest grossing film of July’s inaugural weekend was another sequel: “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” The follow-up banked $7.3 million in its second weekend for a total of $35.3 million.
Meanwhile, Focus Features’ documentary on Fred Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” added 239 locations in its fifth weekend of limited release and grosses subsequently jumped 7%. The film, which celebrates the late kids’ show host known for his messages of optimism and joy, earned $2.6 million for a cumulative total of $12.4 million in 893 theaters.
A less hopeful documentary, “Whitney,” about the life and tragic death of singer Whitney Houston, tallied $1.25 million on 452 screens. The film, produced by Roadside Attractions and Miramax, was directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin MacDonald (“The Last King of Scotland,” “Touching the Void”).
And an acclaimed debut by Oakland-based multi-hyphenate Boots Riley of rap team the Coup earned outsized attention at the box office. Annapurna Pictures’ “Sorry To Bother You” opened in a mere 16 theaters, but earned just over $717,000 for an impressive average of $44,831 per theater.
Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt and Omari Hardwick, the film centers on a telemarketer whose unusual methods for professional success put his personal morals at odds. In addition to earning a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie earned high praise from the likes of “Get Out” director Jordan Peele.