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'Ant-Man' gets a good buzz going ahead of July 4th holiday

Ant-Man may be the smallest of Marvel's superheroes. But his box office potential is quite large.

"Ant-Man and the Wasp," the latest feature from Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel studio, comes flying into theaters July 6. Paul Rudd once again stars in the titular role, playing a tiny hero who must balance the pressure of saving lives with those of being a better father. He is joined by Evangeline Lilly, who as The Wasp becomes his partner in stopping catastrophe.

The movie is already earning strong reviews, having garnered an 83% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of about 11:30 a.m. ET on July 3. The site described the film as "a lighter, brighter superhero movie" that serves as "a much-needed [Marvel] palate cleanser."

SNL Image"The First Purge"
Source: Universal Pictures

Box office expectations for the new movie are high as well, with Variety reporting the movie should take in between $70 million and $80 million during its opening weekend. Similarly, BoxOffice.com estimated at the end of June that the Ant-Man sequel was on track for an opening between $70 million and $90 million, up from a previous forecast of $65 million to $85 million, noting the film's "overall positive outlook now that early critics' reviews suggest another crowd-pleaser."

An opening north of $70 million would be an improvement for the series, as the first "Ant-Man" opened to $57.2 million. That movie went on to earn a total domestic gross of $180.2 million and a profit margin of 33.4%, according to data from Kagan, a research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Looking at a group of Marvel sequels compiled by Kagan, those films on average earned an opening gross of $102.5 million, a domestic gross of $269.7 million and a profit margin of nearly 36.0%.

Meanwhile, on July 4, two days before "Ant-Man and the Wasp" debuts in theaters, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions are set to release "The First Purge," building on the series of films centered on a future in which Americans each year engage in one night of lawlessness involving mayhem and murder.

"The First Purge," as the title suggests, details how the gruesome tradition began, with a fictional political party called the New Founding Fathers of America deciding to hold a test purge in one marginalized neighborhood. When residents fight back against the government-imposed violence, the experiment explodes and spreads out of control.

With the film's political bent, the "Purge" prequel could turn off a portion of the movie-going population. The film's writer and executive producer James DeMonaco confirmed to USA Today "The First Purge" is in fact meant as a commentary on the Trump administration.

The movie had no score on Rotten Tomatoes as of 11:30 a.m. ET on July 3.

All in all, Variety expects an opening in the mid-$20 million range over the holiday weekend, noting that this would be a healthy haul for the film given its $13 million budget.

But an opening in that range would be lower than those of some of the earlier installments in the series. The previous movie, "The Purge: Election Year," earned an opening gross of $31.5 million and a total domestic gross of $79.0 million. With a budget around $10 million, "Election Year" earned a profit margin of 25.9%.

SNL Image