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‘Lucy’ Beating Up ‘Hercules’ at Friday Box Office

Scarlett Johansson is overpowering Dwayne Johnson in their first skirmish for supremacy at the U.S. box office with her “Lucy” heading for a $38 million opening weekend — $10 million ahead of “Hercules.”

Early estimates placed Universal Pictures’ “Lucy” on track for $14 million to $15 million on Friday, including $2.7 million from 2,386 late Thursday screenings. That leaves the weekend ranging between $37 million and $39 million at 3,173 locations.

Johansson, playing a woman accidentally turned superhuman and seeking vengeance, has already established herself as an action star as Black Widow in the Marvel movies. The R-rated thriller, directed by Luc Besson, carries a $40 million budget from Besson’s EuropaCorp.

“Lucy” leads the weekend’s ticket sales on online ticket service Fandango and is outselling previous action thrillers “Oblivion,” “Elysium” and “Edge of Tomorrow” at the same point in the sales cycle.

Early Friday estimates for Johnson’s “Hercules” ranged from $10 million to $11 million, including $2.1 million for late Thursday screenings at 2,053 theaters. Forecasts for the opening weekend ranged from $27 million to $29 million at 3,600 locations.

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“Hercules,” produced by Paramount and MGM, carries a $100 million budget with Brett Ratner directing the origin story of the Son of Zeus and the strongest man on Earth, based on the Radical Comics book by Steve Moore.

Early international grosses looked strong for “Hercules” with $5 million in 11 markets Thursday, led by $2.6 million in Russia — the third best opening day of 2014 for that market. In Australia, first-day gross hit $590,000, nearly doubling the second film in the marketplace.

Eight more markets including the U.K. open this weekend.

Both films carry goodwill from reviews as “Hecules has a 66% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and “Lucy” is at 61%. But the overall box office is expected to continue to trail  last summer’s with trackers pinning their hopes for a rebound on next weekend’s launch of Marvel’s “The Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Hercules” should have enough power to hold off the third weekend of Fox’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which has grossed $155 million in its first 14 days and won the weekend box office back to back. Audiences appear to be giving “Apes” around $5 million Friday for $18 million this weekend, representing a decline of 50%.

Universal’s second weekend of “The Purge: Anarachy” should see a sharper skid of about 58%.  Friday’s estimates were in the $3.8 million to $4.2 million range for a weekend around $11.7 million to $13 million.

Disney’s second frame of “Planes: Fire and Rescue” should land in fifth with $10 million to $11.2 million.

The weekend’s other wide opener, Michael Douglas-Diane Keaton comedy “And So It Goes,” looked quiet with early estimates ranging from $5 million to $6 million for its first weekend for Clarius at 1,700 locations.

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