It was one of the industry's biggest gambles: Marvel had made movies with Captain America and Thor already. But those guys had popped up in songs, on underoos, and had a long legacy behind them. As far as established properties, however, Guardians Of The Galaxy might as well have been a freshly-created IP. No one knew what to expect from the plucky sci-fi film, though most had guessed Thor numbers were on the side of optimistic. But now, it's looking like the Guardians are going to make Thor look like a wuss.

The numbers are streaming in now, and in late-night Thursday shows, Guardians Of The Galaxy collected $11.2 million. That's the highest Thursday night result of the year – fellow Marvel movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuted to only $10.2 million. The biggest opening weekend of the year belongs to Transformers: Age Of Extinction, but on those Thursday night shows, that movie only collected $8.75 million. So if demand was greater for Guardians of the Galaxy on opening night, could James Gunn's movie be bigger than Age Of Extinction on opening weekend and debut to $100 million-plus? Transformers: Age Of Extinction was a third sequel coaxed into existence. Guardians, in contrast, has been collecting great reviews and word-of-mouth left and right.

Not so fast, Kemosabe. Guardians Of The Galaxy is perhaps the nerdiest movie of the year (in a good way), and nerd movies are always frontloaded. The theaters that were packed last night with people who have been saying "I am Groot" for months are not going to be the same as the casuals on Saturday afternoon who simply need somewhere air-conditioned to go, just as long as it's familiar. This is still a movie with a talking tree. An $80-$85 million opening weekend would be an IMMENSE box office victory for Marvel, though it would be a come-down from these Thursday stats.

However, this has been a deflated marketplace this summer. Grosses are down everywhere, as the studios lean more and more on international box office. The two highest-grossing releases this year in America were spring films. And the biggest movie of the summer stateside is Transformers, which is set to collect far less domestically than the previous three films. Underperforming sequels is a trend this summer, as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days Of Future Past couldn't out-gross previous installments despite inflation. And without inflation, you realize that Godzilla has actually sold way less tickets than its much-hated 1998 counterpart.

Ultimately, it might simply be a sign that audiences wanted something fun and silly and adventurous after a season of high stakes hits. Guardians looks fresh, which excited those not put off by the Marvel logo, and it played to the fans who have devoured the nine previous Marvel universe movies. This is a hit, no doubt about it. We'll just have to watch the numbers this weekend and see exactly how big it is.

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