Box Office: In Battle Of Sexes Scarlett Johansson and Lucy Get Bragging Rights Over Dwayne Johnson and Hercules

Audiences were unsure about Lucy, but there were still plenty curious enough to venture into cinemas and make it the top money earner for the weekend with an impressive $44 million. That’s $15m better than second place finisher Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson. So what made Marvel’s Black Widow kick The Rock’s ass? Could it be that audiences were keenly aware that this was the second Hercules picture of the year, and didn’t want to relive another Deep Impact/Armageddon or Dante’s Peak/Volcano situation, or that year where there were two Christopher Columbus or two Steve Prefontaine movies? That can’t be it. Dwayne Johnson is a draw when bolstering franchises, but he’s had difficulty in having his own starring vehicles be monster hits out of the gates.

Plus, Paramount Pictures didn’t do the movie any favors. Well, at least in my region. It wasn’t screened for critics until the night before its opening – a day usually reserved for features studios hope won’t get many reviews before its theatrical bow. However, in today’s cinema environment, 8 PM Thursday night openings have become the norm as opposed to midnight openings on Fridays.

Though I can’t speak for Hercules, Luc Besson’s Lucy made the most of its shrewd marketing. Watching the advertising you get the impression that this is what a Black Widow movie would look like as far as action goes, then the narrative kicks in and the curiosity that went with the premise, well it becomes ridiculous albeit somewhat entertaining. Regardless, the film’s opening is the biggest box-office debut for Scarlett Johansson in a starring role. For writer/director Luc Besson Lucy‘s $44 million is his highest domestic opening ever, easily surpassing the $17m theatrical bow of 1997’s The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis. The film’s performance also elevates ScarJo above recent sci-fi-ish debuts starring the likes of Tom Cruise (both Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion), Matt Damon (Elysium), and Johnny Depp (Transcendence).

Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules finished with a dismal $29 million in the U.S. and another $28.7m overseas. Considering that The Rock starred in films that opened as low as $8.5m (Faster), and usually in between $13 to $25 million, a $29m opening isn’t disastrous. For a summer blockbuster it may be, but I have a feeling that once it opens in more international venues the film will find its way in the black.

Taking bronze was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Last week it narrowly retained #1 against the arrival of The Purge: Anarchy. In the battle of the sequels, Caesar and the Monkey Bunch rebounded strong after Anarchy took at 64% loss earning close to $10m compared to Apes $16+ million. In three weeks Dawn of PotA has made an impressive $172m and should be able to reach $200 million before it exits theaters.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is slowing down fast after that quick $100+ million opening out of the gate some weeks back. Sitting at $236m it is the third highest domestic earner of 2014, but it looks like it won’t be able to surpass Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its $258 million haul. It will and is, however, dominating worldwide where it has earned a stupid amount of money. How stupid, you might ask? Try $730 million. That’s right. The movie has grossed $966 million with 75% of that coming from international receipts. With China accounting for $300m of that sum, don’t be surprised if the next sequel is set around Bejing. As long as the Autobots and Decepticons don’t destroy the Great Wall, I don’t think Chinese audiences will cry foul.

It was box office business as usual with Planes: Fire & Rescue taking a small drop, and Sex Tape taking a 60% dip in its second weekend. Those expecting lightning to strike twice with Bad Teacher stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, well that’s not going to happen. It’ll be lucky to finish with $50m domestic before hitting video. More favorable is the Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy. Opening Fourth of July weekend it has slowly grossed $78 million. Don’t think it will reach $100m, but if it finishes around $90 million, I consider that a win for such a slow-starter.

Completing the top ten was A Most Wanted Man. This adaptation of the John Le Carre novel had a few things going for it. The spy thriller got strong reviews, plus it is one of the final performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Opening in 361 theaters, it grossed a strong $2.2 million to crack the top 10.

For those wondering about the critically acclaimed Boyhood, it expanded from 34 theaters to 107 to have an estimated $1.58 million weekend to bring its three week total to $4.1 million. Already it is now one of IFC Films’ top five all-time money earners and should be in the studio’s top three by this time next week.

01. Lucy — $44 million
02. Hercules — $29 million
03. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes — $16.4 million ($172.08m)
04. The Purge: Anarchy — $9.89 million ($51.2m)
05. Planes: Fire & Rescue — $9.3 million ($35.1m)
06. Sex Tape — $5.97 million ($26.8m)
07. Transformers: Age Of Extinction — $4.6 million ($236.3m)
08. And So It Goes — $4.55 million
09. Tammy — $3.4 million ($78.1m)
10. A Most Wanted Man — $2.71 million

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