The irreverent film is the rare Marvel comic book movie to be rated R; 'Zoolander 2' and 'How to Be Single' also open over the long Valentine's Day/Presidents Day weekend.
Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool is on fire at the Friday box office, where it's on course to gross $35 million-plus for the day and $100 million or more over the long Valentine's Day/Presidents Day weekend, according to early returns.
Deadpool is proving an even bigger victory than expected for Reynolds and Fox. Tracking had suggested the irreverent superhero movie — one of the rare Marvel comic book movies to be rated R — would open to $65 million or $70 million over the four-day holiday weekend. Throughout Friday, projections kept being revised upwards as grosses came pouring in.
For the three-day weekend, it looks to open in the vicinity of Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3 million) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million). If it manages to cross $100 million for the three days, it would be only the 11th superhero movie in history to achieve that feat. And it's likely to score the top three-day R-rated opening of all time.
Friday's haul includes $12.7 million in Thursday night previews, the biggest ever for an R-rated film and the biggest of all time for the month of February. Fox made the movie per its licensing deal with Marvel Enterprises for the X-Men universe of characters.
The previous top Thursday night opening for an R-rated film belonged to The Hangover Part II($10.4 million), which launched over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, followed by Fifty Shades of Grey ($8.6 million) a year ago on its way to scoring the top Presidents Day weekend debut of all time with $93 million. Deadpool even beat Disney and Marvel Studios' Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($10.2 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($11.2 million).
Deadpool began playing at 7 p.m. in 2,975 locations; on Friday, it expanded into a total of 3,558 theaters, including Imax locations. The Imax portion of Thursday night's haul was $2.3 million, the sixth-biggest preview ever for the large-format circuit. And premium large format screens turned in $2 million.
A passion project for Reynolds, the irreverent, tongue-in-cheek movie follows Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool), a foul-mouthed, witty superhero who is bestowed with special powers after undergoing an experimental treatment for cancer. The actor first appeared as the character inX-Men Origins: Wolverine. In Deadpool, the superhero searches out the men who subjected him to the treatment.
Deadpool's rating is considered a "hard" R, and theaters across the country will likely be monitoring ticket buyers to make sure those under 17 years of age unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian don't gain entry to Deadpool, since teenagers are in the habit of seeing Marvel superhero movies on their own.
Friday's audience is giving Deadpool stellar marks, with 92 percent saying they would recommend it to a friend, according to comScore's PostTrak exit polling service. And 76 percent checked off the excellent box.
The movie is also off to an impressive start overseas, where it could earn north of $80 million for the weekend. It's a key victory for Reynolds, whose previous superhero film, Green Lantern, fell flat. Deadpool cost $58 million to make, and it took 11 years to convince Fox to make the film, considering its R rating. Directed by Tim Miller, the film also stars Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Gina Carano.
The other two holiday offerings are Zoolander 2 and How to Be Single.
From Paramount, Zoolander 2, reuniting Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell, is expected to open in the $19 million to $24 million range for the four days after earning $750,000 Thursday night. The sequel, costing a little more than $50 million to make, is rated PG-13. Paramount had hoped for a four-day gross north of $25 million.
How to Be Single, an R-rated romantic comedy, stars Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie and Leslie Mann. The New Line and Warner Bros. film is pacing to open to $24 million to $26 million, slightly ahead of expectations and thanks to keen interest from females. It's also rolling out in select foreign markets and is already seeing solid returns.
The movie took in $700,000 Thursday night.
How to Be Single could find itself in a close race for the No. 2 spot with holdover Kung Fu Panda 3, while Zoolander 2 looks to place No. 4. Hail, Caesar, now in its second weekend, is expected to round out the top five with a solid $8.4 million.