Box Office: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Astounds With $160.4 Mil Global Debut

“The Guardians of the Galaxy” touched down with a dazzling $94 million this weekend, proving that Marvel is the new gold standard for movie brands.

That set a new record for an August domestic debut, easily trumping the $69.3 million bow of 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and scoring the third biggest stateside opening of the year. Overseas, the film netted an impressive $66.4 million in 42 territories, including Russia, Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom. It has brought in $160.4 million worldwide and still has many major markets left to open such as China, Australia, France and Spain.

The Walt Disney release blew past tracking that initially suggested a U.S. debut in the $65 million to $70 million range.

“It’s a testament to the momentum of the brand overall and all of the pieces just coming together in the right way,” said Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios’ executive vice president of theatrical distribution.

The distribution chief argued that part of the reason tracking was so off was that Disney saved 40% of its marketing for the final week before the film opened, allowing them to drive awareness for the picture at a critical point.

“We were able to heat things up to white hot levels and use those final days as a call to arms,” said Hollis.

Marvel’s adaptations of its comicbooks have been profitable for years, but following the $1.5 billion success of 2012’s “The Avengers,” their films have reached new heights. “Iron Man 3” hit $1.2 billion, nearly doubling the previous film in the series; “Thor: The Dark World” reached $644.8 million, a 44% improvement on the first God of Thunder film; and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is finishing off with $713.2 million globally, a 92% hike from the patriotic warrior’s big screen debut.

Having made $6.3 billion at the box office, since taking ownership of the films with 2008’s “Iron Man,” Marvel has become one of the most consistent hit-makers in Hollywood history. Its record of tapping into the zeitgeist is unrivaled by all save Pixar.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” represented a roll of the dice for the studio and its corporate parent, Walt Disney. It arrived with a production budget of $170 million (plus whatever it cost to market the interstellar heroes from one end of the planet to the other), but without the brand recognition of a Captain America or a Thor. It also debuted in August, traditionally a slower time for popcorn films.

Tapping James Gunn, a tongue-in-cheek auteur best known for low-budget enterprises such as “Slither” and “Super,” and Chris Pratt, the “Parks & Recreation” funny man, were offbeat choices that reaped dividends. The picture was hailed for its sense of humor, with critics rewarding it with a 96% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The movie is irreverent, the movie is rebellious and the movie is not a slick Hollywood-produced wrap everything up in bow kind of film,” said Greg Foster, chairman and president of Imax Entertainment.

Blasting off at the tail-end of summer was also a deft move. This summer has been a dreadful one for the movie business, with receipts down nearly 20% from last year’s record-breaker. But that meant that movie-goers were hungry for a broad, exciting, special effects-driven adventure after three months of blockbusters that weren’t.

Domestically, “Guardians of the Galaxy” premiered in 4,080 locations, a new high-water mark for August. It unspooled with all the requisite bells and whistles, with $17 million of its global bounty coming from Imax, $7.5 million of its domestic gross coming from other large-screen premium formats and 25% of its U.S. haul originating from 3D screenings. The opening weekend crowd was 56% male, 26% families and 59% adults, with moviegoers ages 26 to 34 making up the largest sector.

As for the weekend’s other debut, Universal’s James Brown biopic “Get on Up” shook and strutted its way to $14 million — a so-so debut for a modestly priced $30 million piece of counter-programming. Opening weekend audiences were older (90% age 25 and older) and African-American (70%).

With a CinemaScore of A, Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco hopes the picture will be able to build on word-of-mouth.

“It’s where we thought it would be,” said Rocco. “We’re hoping with the exit poll data we’ve been receiving that the picture finds its way and can be an upscale and African-American choice throughout August.”

“Guardians'” good fortune didn’t leave a lot of room for other contenders. Last weekend’s champ, “Lucy,” slid 57% to $18.3 million, scoring second place at the stateside box office and bringing its domestic gross to $79.6 million. “Hercules,” another holdover, also saw “Guardians” take a bite out of its young adult fan base, dropping more than 60% to $10.7 million and putting its total at $52.3 million. Sliding in for fifth place, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” added $8.7 million to its bounty and has now passed the previous film in the franchise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes'” domestic total, with an $189.3 million stateside haul.

On the specialty film front, Fox Searchlight’s n”Calvary” grossed an estimated $72,000 in a handful of theaters. It will expand next week to between 35 to 40 theaters. Roadside and Lionsgate’s “A Most Wanted Man” enjoyed a nice expansion, moving to 729 screens in its second week and grossing an estimated $3.3 million, while Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” widened its footprint from 17 to 65 screens, picking up $770,430 in the process.

But the big story was an unlikely group of space cowboys, who pulverized expectations and became one of the surprise breakout hits in a summer that’s been mostly fizzle and little sizzle.

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  1. Kelly says:

    No mention of how this is the first Marvel movie written by a woman, Nicole Perlman? Interesting…

  2. Groot says:

    Ich bin Groot!

  3. racheld says:

    Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    This is pretty cool!

  4. didy says:

    I honestly could care less if the film was a product of Marvel or Disney. I specifically went to see that film because of Chris Pratt. Such a huge fan and his performance did not disappoint!

  5. hesao says:

    more collector, more nova prime, more korath, more nebula, more more more more.. more ronan too

  6. hesao says:

    Everything moves smoothly, and everything and everyone looked good. the plot… was intentionally subsidary to the question of the universe. really cool

  7. Brad says:

    Best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It took me back to the 70’s, watching Star Wars for the first time. I felt like a kid again!!!

  8. Armond H. says:

    I respect people’s opinions to say that Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel films aren’t good. But honestly, how can you hate this film? It is definitely worth seein in theaters. Hilarious, charming, sombering when it needs too, etc. Its what made the Original Star Wars such a hit. Thats a lofty claim, especially for the older generations, but honestly and truthfully, it holds up and will blow your socks off.

  9. Astounding Achievement ! Non stop SuperStyle action, great dialog and Big Hearted Characters ! Artistic palooza extravaganza!

  10. What this proves is that with good writing and good actors (not necessarily high-priced actors) a movie will find viewers. I hope they don’t learn the wrong lessons from GOTG’s success.

    • guido merkens says:

      So does that mean Transformers had better writing and better actors since it made more?

      • jedi77 says:

        No, just the opposite.
        bad writing and bad actors can always find an audience, hence the dumbing down of most tentpole movies.
        But this year we’ve seen X-men, Apes and now Guardians go against that trend. And that is cause for optimism for all us movie loving freaks:-)

  11. PadawanLerner says:

    I can’t wait till next weekend so I can see Guardians of the Galaxy for a second time. One of my top five favorites for the year. A MUST SEE!!

  12. c-mone says:

    Well l guess I can download it now since I think 190 million is enough yo pay for everyone’s hard work…no need to pay to watch it at this point

    • mondo says:

      In this particular case I’d recommend the theater. There is just so much going on screen that Imax is the way to go.

    • therealeverton says:

      No First off it is $160m. Secondly that means that they are due back about $$90m or so from the cinemas (who do not show films for free) and that they are STILL $80m in debt on simply the production costs of the film.

      But hey, if lousy economics makes you feel better,…

    • Oh miserly internet commentator! Don’t rob yourself of an experience that you will find worth repeating.

    • Ben says:

      I hope you get caught & go to prison. What is wrong with you. Go & see this movie at the cinema. It’s there to be enjoyed. Enjoy it in the best environment… The cinema.

  13. Jacques Strappe says:

    Mostly unknown Chris Pratt just became an A-List movie star overnight.

  14. FYI– It does not have a 96% critics rating on RT, that is the audience rating. The critics rating currently sits at 92%. But it was indeed an awesome film and deserves to be a big success.

  15. Longbowhunter says:

    Part of the reason this flick is such a hit? Its actually FUN! Remember that word Hollywood? Not everything has to be doom and gloom.

  16. Maybe this might make them realise there is a market for a Deadpool film

  17. Alright, Marvel fans and/or movie fans in America. LISTEN UP. The weekend estimates for Guardians of the Galaxy report it opened up $94 million, but, while we are at it, let’s try to get it to make an extra $1.1 million dollars to beat Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s opening weekend record by the end of the night. It might not beat Transformers 4, well, maybe it could if it pulls an Avengers surprise, but it might be able to beat Captain America 2’s opening weekend record. SO, C’MON GUYS. DONT STOP, KEEP GOING. HURRY BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. LET’S DO IT.

  18. Joe says:

    Just saw the film. IT IS CRAP.

    • Larry says:

      Back in your hole… Troll. You obviously haven’t seen the film. Because if you had you would be saying how much you love it. Nope… You are just a sad little person filled with hate. Can Variety please delete this offensive little persons hate post.

      • Cade says:

        Why if anyone says something bad about a Marvel you guys act so offended??I thought it was crap writing,poor cgi and too campy.Thought Pratt was good though

    • Vincent says:

      Joe can you tell me why you think it’s crap. Have not seen it yet.

      • @NYCS Box office numbers don’t prove the artistic value of a film, chum. Just sayin’. Look at the Transformers films versus, say, The King’s Speech.

        That being said, I loved GotG and had a lot of fun watching it. Might even see it a second time this week.

      • NYCS says:

        “It’s crap,” says the plant from WB. The movie is astounding. The numbers prove it has captures imaginations. What balls it took to make.

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