‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ buzzes to $76 million debut

This image released by Marvel Studios shows Paul Rudd in a scene from "Ant-Man and the Wasp." (Disney/Marvel Studios via AP)

NEW YORK — Despite its heroes’ diminutive size, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” opened with typical Marvel might at the box office, with an estimated $76 million in ticket sales.

According to studio estimates Sunday, the “Ant-Man” sequel easily surpassed the $57 million debut of the 2015 original in North America. The 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the 20th to debut no. 1 at the box office — “Ant-Man and the Wasp” comes on the heels of two mammoth Marvel successes this year: “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

While the first “Ant-Man,” starring Paul Rudd, had a rocky road to release due to a late director change, the rollout of the sequel, directed by Peyton Reed, was smoother. Cathleen Taff, head of distribution for Disney, credited a marketing campaign that played up the film as a more modest, funny and light-hearted change-of-pace for Marvel following the grandiosity of “Infinity War.”

“It came in solidly within of our range and definitely sized-up the sequel,” said Taff.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp,” with a reported production budget of about $160 million, may have performed well enough to firmly establish its place among Marvel’s more main-line superheroes. Reviews were good (86 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences gave it an A-minus CinemaScore. Ticket sales overseas added another $85 million.

Befitting the summer season, the weekend’s top five films were all sequels. The weekend’s other new wide release was Blumhouse Productions’ “The First Purge,” the fourth film in the low-budget horror franchise about an annual 12-hour period of lawlessness. With July 4th falling on a Wednesday and thus depriving Hollywood of a holiday weekend, Universal opted to release “The First Purge” on Wednesday, while “Ant-Man” waited for the customary Thursday night previews.