It’s a big win for Johansson, solidifying her as an action star to rival Angelina Jolie. “Lucy” ranks as her largest non-Marvel opening, edging out 2009’s “He’s Just Not That Into You” ($27.8 million). It’s been a very good few months for Johansson, who scored critical raves for playing a sultry, Siri-like voice in “Her” and a conflicted alien seductress in “Under the Skin,” and made bank reprising her role as Black Widow in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
“Her bankability is beyond reproach and her street cred is beyond comparison,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “She can bounce gracefully between indie movies and esoteric movies and then rise to the top box office charts.”
Universal acquired “Lucy” for $40 million, which makes its opening a substantial accomplishment for a modestly priced thriller. The film, which centers on a woman who gets injected with a drug that allows her to access the other, unused 90% of her brain, debuted across 3,173 locations.
Showcasing a gun-wielding Johansson helped broaden the film’s base beyond the younger males who typically turn out for action flicks. The film’s opening audience was evenly divided between men and women and skewed older, with 65% of the audience clocking in at age 25 and older.
“It just looked different from what’s out there,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal Pictures president of domestic distribution. “We had everybody’s interest with this movie. The marketing said you’re going to have a good time with this movie.”
Going into the weekend, it looked like “Hercules” might become the summer’s first true mega-flop, but the Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release beat back the bad buzz and opened above tracking that pegged a debut in the low $20 million range. It helped that reviews for the picture were solid, with the son of Zeus story scoring a 63% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Brett Ratner directed the film, which cost $100 million to produce, so the picture will need to perform well abroad if it wants to turn a profit. “Hercules” unspooled in 3,595 locations stateside, and launched in 26 international markets and approximately 3,400 locations grossing $28.7 million through Sunday.
“The domestic grosses are below what we hoped, but it was an excellent gross globally,” said Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures. “When you look at how strong those international numbers were, it bodes well for the rollout.”
Moore noted that originally “Hercules” had been slated to go up against “Sex Tape” and “Jupiter Ascending,” but date shifts left if fending off “Lucy,” and splitting the action audience. Overseas, the film still has a number of major territories left to open, including in Latin America, Japan and Europe, and the Paramount vice-chair predicts it will top $200 million at the foreign box office.
“The film testifies to the continuing power of Dwayne Johnson globally,” Moore said.
The other major wide release, “And So It Goes” failed to find a counter-programming sweet spot. The geriatric rom-com starred Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas but only eked out $4.5 million across 1,762 locations. Clarius Entertainment produced the picture.
Alas, the summer box office doldrums showed no sign of abating. The weekend was down 13% from the year-ago period when “The Wolverine” sliced up $53 million in its opening frame. This stands to be the worst summer from a ticket sales perspective in eight years.
Last weekend’s returning champ, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” fell 55% to $16.3 million, while “The Purge: Anarchy” dropped a steep 67% to $9.9 million in its second week of release. Horror tends to be a front-loaded genre, and “The Purge” sequel’s fall was less dramatic than the first picture’s 75.6% drop, putting the two films roughly neck-in-neck at similar points in their release cycles. “Anarchy” has grossed $51.3 million while the first “Purge” had netted $51.9 million after two weeks in theaters.
Among other holdovers, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” showed staying power and benefited from lack of family-film competition, dropping 47% to add another $9.3 million to its pot. “Sex Tape” suffered a steeper fall, declining 59% to grab $5.9 million.
Of the limited releases, Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” debuted to $425,730 on 17 screens, accounting for a decent $25,043 per-screen average, while “Boyhood” expanded to 107 theaters, picking up $1.7 million and brining its total to $4.1 million. Roadside Attractions’ “A Most Wanted Man” did $2.7 million worth of business on 361 screens. The John Le Carre adaptation marks one of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final roles. The Oscar-winner died of a drug overdose last February.
All in all, think of this weekend as something of a throat-clearing before “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuts on Aug. 1, providing the best chance to end a dispiriting summer on a high-note.