NEW YORK -- Phase five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have gotten off to a rocky start, but Ant-Man is bigger than ever at the box office.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" opened with $104 million in domestic ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday, easily surpassing the box-office debuts of the previous two Ant-Man films. The Walt Disney Co.'s “Quantumania” added another $121.3 million overseas to give the pint-sized hero a $225 million global launch.
It's easily the largest opening of the year so far. And “Quantumania” did so despite an atypically poor reception for the 31st MCU film. “Quantumania," starring Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror, sits at 48% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the only MCU film to rank as rotten beside “Eternals” (47%).
Audiences also weren't thrilled with “Quantumania,” giving it a “B” CinemaScore. “Eternals” is the only other MCU film to receive a CinemaScore that low.
Those scores will pose the biggest concern for Marvel as it continues to unroll phase five of the MCU, following mixed reviews for the post-"Avengers: Endgame" phase four of the comic-book franchise. Up next is “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” in May.
But good reviews or not, theaters hope “Quantumania” — the first blockbuster of the year — is a sign of things to come. After the turmoil of the past three years, there are some 30 more wide releases planned for 2023.
“It will feel almost in the coming weeks like a pre-pandemic moviegoing environment in terms of the marketplace," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “That's very good news coming off a very tumultuous past two, three years. This is the start of a big many months for this industry. We've sort of been in the waiting room with holdovers like ‘Avatar’ and others."
The first “Ant-Man” launched with $57.2 million domestically in 2015, the smallest opening for any movie in the MCU. It ultimately earned $519.3 million worldwide. Its sequel, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” debuted three years later with $75.8 million and went to collect $622.7 million globally.
China was vital for both of those releases, with each topping $100 million there. But in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, fewer American movies have secured major releases in the heavily regulated Chinese market. Not since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019 has a Disney release opened simultaneously in the U.S. and China.
Whether China will ever go back to those pre-pandemic numbers for U.S. movies, however, remains to be seen — especially as tensions continue to fester over the Chinese balloon surveillance program. “Quantumania” took in $19 million over the weekend in China.
In its 10th weekend of release, James Cameron's “Avatar: The Way of Water” remained in second place with $6.4 million. With $2.243 billion globally, Cameron's sci-fi sequel has now just surpassed Cameron's own “Titanic” — currently back in theaters for its 25th anniversary — as the third-highest grossing film ever. Now, only the 2009 “Avatar” and “Avengers: Endgame” rank above “The Way of Water.”
Last week’s top film, “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” slid to third place with $5.5 million. The Channing Tatum sequel has collected $18.1 million in two weeks.
Landing in fourth was Universal's “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which has enjoyed an unusually long run in theaters as the top family option since late December. With $5.3 million over the weekend, it has totaled $167 million domestically and more than $400 million worldwide.
Only one new film went into wide release against “Quantumania." Open Road and Briarcliff Entertainment debuted “Marlowe,” with Liam Neeson playing Raymond Chandler's classic private eye, in 2,281 locations. “Marlowe," though, only mustered $1.9 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” $104 million.
2. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” $6.1 million.
3. “Magic Mike's Last Dance,” $5.5 million.
4. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” $5.3 million.
5. “Knock at the Cabin,” $3.9 million.
6. “80 for Brady,” $3.6 million.
7. “Titanic,” $2.3 million.
8. “Marlowe,” $1.9 million.
9. “Missing,” $1.7 million.
10. “A Man Called Otto,” $1.6 million.
This story has been corrected to correct the rankings of “Magic Mike's Last Dance" and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which were originally transposed. It also corrects the name of “Avengers: Endgame."
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP