Guardians of the Galaxy” injected life into a summer box office that was looking positively moribund.

The Marvel release landed in U.S. theaters with a smashing $94 million debut last weekend, crushing estimates that had pegged an opening in the $70 million range. Those otherworldly results lifted the overall domestic box office.

Going into the weekend, summer ticket sales were off more than 20% from last year’s record-breaker. Thanks to “Guardians,” they now are down 18%, according to Rentrak. The summer box office currently stands at $3.2 billion compared with $3.9 billion at the same point in 2013.

“Summer ain’t over,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “To move the needle one percent in one weekend is a lot. If we can get so we’re 12 or 15 percent down by the end of summer, that’s a more manageable deficit.”

After eight straight weeks of declines, last weekend was up 34.6% over the previous year’s haul. In 2013, action buddy comedy “2 Guns” opened during the same period. With an R-rating, it had a more limited appeal than the PG-13 rated “Guardians.”

Hollywood needs upcoming films such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Let’s Be Cops” to attract crowds if the box office is going to make up some of the ground it lost during a lackluster July. Year to date, the box office is down 6.2%.

“We need a couple of sleeper hits now to make the month exciting,” said Eric Handler, a media analyst with MKM Partners.