"300: Rise of an Empire" has launched impressively with $3.3 million in late-night showings Thursday in the U.S.
The sword-and-sandals sequel, from Warner Bros.-Legendary Entertainment, is expected to win the domestic weekend box office battle with tracking in the $40 million to $43 million range.
DreamWorks Animation's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" has been forecast to finish the weekend with a solid $30 million.
"300: Rise of an Empire" is arriving seven years after the original "300," starring Gerard Butler, became a surprise hit with $456 million worldwide. The sequel stars Aussie actor Sullivan Stapleton (TV's "Strike Back"), Eva Green and Lena Headey.
Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel "Xerxes" and directed by Noam Murro in the same style as "300," the new film centers on Greek general Themistocles (Stapleton) and his attempts to unite all of Greece against the Persian invaders with much of the battling at sea.
Zack Snyder, director of "Man of Steel" and "300," is producing along with Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari. Green stars as Artemisia and Headey reprises her role from "300" as the Spartan Queen along with Rodrigo Santoro as the Persian King, Xerxes.