Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Defending Trash, Camp–and Nostalgia

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is off to a strong start at the box office, grossing an estimated $4.6 million in Thursday screenings.

The shelled adventure debuted in approximately 2,651 locations, and is expected to make just shy of $50 million this weekend in the U.S. Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the film, compared the overnight results to “Maleficent’s” $4 million Thursday haul en route to a $69.4 million opening earlier this summer.

The studio contends both films are family pictures, although “Maleficent” drew an overwhelmingly female crowd and “Ninja Turtles” seems pitched at a different gender and could draw twentysomethings, likely to associate Michelangelo with a pizza-eating reptile.

The latest “Ninja Turtles” is benefiting from a combination of nostalgia for the 1990s films, TV shows and toy lines, as well as a new generation of fans weaned on Nickelodeon’s rebooted series.

“Transformers” director Michael Bay produced the film, which stars his sexy muse, Megan Fox.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which cost $125 million to make,” will expand to more than 3,800 locations.

Its main competition comes from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The Marvel picture re-energized a fading summer box office when it debuted to $94.3 million last weekend and analysts expect it will continue to be a strong performer. It’s should generate roughly $45 million in ticket sales this weekend, giving “Ninja Turtles” a run for first place on the box office charts.

Internationally, “Ninja Turtles” opens in 17 markets, including major sites such as Russia and Mexico.