2014’s summer box office got a rare ray of sunshine this weekend thanks to Lucy. The sci-fi/action pic easily claimed first place with an estimated $44 million from 3,173 locations – the highest debut for star Scarlett Johansson outside of her Marvel Universe appearances. Hercules had to settle for a second place, though the action/adventure’s estimated $29 million from 3,595 locations also beat expectations.
|3.||Dawn of the Planet of the Apes||$16,400,000||$172|
|4.||The Purge: Anarchy||$9,896,000||$51.2|
|5.||Planes: Fire & Rescue||$9,303,000||$35.1|
|7.||Transformers: Age of Extinction||$4,600,000||$236.3|
|8.||And So It Goes||$4,552,000||$4.5|
|10.||A Most Wanted Man||$2,717,000||$2.7|
Full story after the jump.
In this summer of marginal performers any film that opens significantly higher than expected is cause for celebration. So break out the party hats for Universal’s Lucy, which managed to double its pre-release projections and make Hercules look like kind of a wimp in the process.
Originally slated to open on August eighth, one week after Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and alongside a handful of other new titles, Lucy could have ended up a box office after thought. Back in 2011 Colombiana (another female-led action film from writer/ producer Luc Besson) opened in August with just over $10 million. Thanks to her prominent place in Marvel’s cinematic universe, Scarlett Johansson is more of a draw than Zoe Saldana, so Lucy was always destined to beat Colombiana’s debut – with or without the change of release dates.
What Lucy was not expected to do was top the $36 million launch of Salt, Angelina Jolie’s action-heroine hit from 2010. In fact, this morning’s estimate wound up close to the $47.7 million of Tomb Raider, the film that helped establish Jolie’s action bona fides way back in 2001. Removing the gender angle, Lucy also came out ahead of action films like The Bourne Legacy ($38.1 million) and sci-fi titles including Edge of Tomorrow ($28.7 million) and Elysium ($29.8 million). Finally, the film more than doubled the $18.9 million opening of 2011’s Limitless, another movie that dealt with the power of the mind.
Of course, it’s hard to take a gender-neutral approach to discussing Lucy’s opening, mostly thanks to the film that shares its release date. The name ‘Hercules’ is pretty much synonymous with male power, so how perfect is it that the film based on the legendary strongman got muscled out of first place by a woman? The second of 2014’s features to focus on the son of Zeus was expected to open with about $25 million, so this morning’s estimate is by no means a disappointment for MGM/Paramount. But a closer look at the numbers is illuminating.
Hercules opened in more locations than Lucy (3,595 to 3,173) and also had the advantage of its 3D and large format locations to boost grosses. That price advantage didn’t help, however, and because Hercules had a much larger budget than Lucy ($100 million to $40 million), the latter’s win looks even more decisive. About the only place Hercules came out on top, in fact, was in terms of its reception. The film received a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, compared to the C+ awarded Lucy. On another week that could indicate a strong sophomore hold, but with Guardians of the Galaxy due on Friday it’s safe to say that Hercules will have trouble distinguishing itself in its second frame. The good news is that the film should make up for any domestic shortcomings with a strong performance overseas, where star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a box office powerhouse.
The weekend’s final new (wide) release is director Rob Reiners’ And So It Goes. The romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton opened with an estimated $4.5 million from 1,762 locations, which was in line with the film’s modest expectations. Meanwhile, the limited release of A Most Wanted Man, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final features, came out ahead of projections with a very healthy $2.7 million from just 361 locations. That equals a per-screen average of $7,526 for the thriller – not far below the $8,000 average of Hercules. The weekend’s per-theatre champion, however, was Woody Allen. The director’s Magic in the Moonlight opened in 17 locations and earned an estimated $426,000 for an average of $25,069.
Even with the combined strength of Lucy and Hercules, the weekend box office was not able to top 2013’s total, when The Wolverine was on top with $55 million. Next weekend should provide a much needed win courtesy of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The highly-anticipated comic adaptation is expected to smash the August opening record with over $75 million. The current record of $69.2 million was set in August 2007 by The Bourne Ultimatum. Check back next weekend to see if Marvel can go even higher.