Rocket Yondu and Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The wait is over, Marvel fans. After nearly three full years of anticipation and waiting, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finally hit U.S. theaters last night. For weeks there's been buzz about the sequel from critics, reporters and those lucky enough to attend early screenings, and now the general public can check it out at their convenience. That said, plenty of people have already watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 during last night's screenings, and in total, the Thursday opening collected an impressive $17 million.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has already had more than a week to wrack up the big bucks internationally, but domestically, it kicked off last night soaring past the $15 million mark. This is the third highest Thursday night opening for a Marvel movie, with Avengers: Age of Ultron still holding the #1 spot with 27.6 million and Captain America: Civil War coming in second place with $25 million. According to Variety, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's domestic opening weekend haul is expected to range between $150 million and $170 million.

It's also important to remember that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn't just another Marvel movie; it also officially ushered in the summer movie season. Movies like this are going to far surpass the smaller movies and many of the other offerings that have come in the immediate preceding weeks. For instance, The Circle, How To Be A Latin Lover and Sleight all opened last weekend, and their weekend grosses (in the same order) were over $9 million, over $12 million and over $2 million, respectively. Keep in mind that these are smaller movies that won't make, or need to make, nearly as much as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (although The Circle still hasn't made back its budget yet), but it just goes to show that we're now officially in that blockbuster period. This month alone will also see the release of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch, to name a few.

Taking place of a few months after 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot as they expand their team, battle new enemies and try to keep their family dynamic together. Most of the Guardians are confirmed to return for Avengers: Infinity War, and James Gunn is already confirmed to be writing and directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now playing in theaters across the country, and whether you've already seen it or haven't had the opportunity, yet, don't forget to read our review of the movie.

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