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“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2” TO HIT THEATERS MAY 5

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Fate of the Furious” is projected to hit the road after three weekends in first place.

Enter “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” which is set to kick off the summer box office with a bang. The latest from Disney and Marvel should blast off to a domestic opening in the range of $150 million to $170 million. A more conservative estimate from the studio pegged the opening at $140 million and change. The sequel to 2014’s smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” will open in 4,300 locations domestically, including 388 Imax screens. As an extra promotion through RealD, 558 spots will offer a 3D double feature starting with the first “Guardians” film and leading into a 7 p.m. screening of the sequel.

Guardians 2” comes into the weekend with well over $100 million in the bank from international ticket sales. It made more than $106 million in its first weekend at 58% of overseas territories. This week the movie opens in several more major foreign markets — South Korea on May 3, Russia and Argentina on May 4, China on May 5, and Japan on May 12. This is a film that stands a fighting chance of cracking the $1 billion mark globally.

Which is to say, the sequel to 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” comes with high expectations. When the original was released in 2014, it was a relatively unknown property that managed to smash records for the month of August when it opened to more than $94 million domestically (still modest by Disney/Marvel standards). But word-of-mouth kept building. By the end of its theatrical run, it had raked in $333 million domestically and $440 million overseas — the third-highest earner of the year behind two end-of-year releases (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” and “American Sniper”).

The rag-tag band of quirky superheroes have since entered the public consciousness. Pratt is now a bona fide movie star, and baby Groot is an adorable fan favorite (not to mention merchandising poster child). Judging by the sequel’s 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, the critical consensus says the movie targets all the same pleasure centers as the first go around — even if it sometimes feels like a rehash. “Shot for shot, line for line, it’s an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle,” Variety‘s own Owen Gleiberman wrote in his mixed review of the sequel.

While the first was an August juggernaut, the second is set up in prime position — the first weekend in May has been dominant for Disney in recent history. In 2012 “Marvel’s The Avengers” opened to $207 million, currently the third-highest sum of all time behind two 2015 blockbusters (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World”). The past two years have seen “Avengers: Age of Ultron” open to $191 million and “Captain America: Civil War” clean up with $179 million.

If all goes according to plan, get used to seeing “Guardians Vol. 2” on top. The big-budget superhero flick should coast past Warner Bros.’ “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” next weekend, and possibly the following frame as well when it will face the long-awaited reboot from Fox, “Alien: Covenant.”

The movie will start tomorrow (Friday, May 5, 2017) at the Rocky Top 10 in Crossville.