Smashing expectations, increasing the clout of the Marvel brand, and pulling the domestic box office out of a seasonal slump characterized by some of the weakest returns in a decade – Guardians of the Galaxy did it all this weekend, opening to a stellar $94 million.
The Bourne Ultimatum’s $69.3 million debut to set the new opening weekend record for August. It boasts the third highest bow of 2014, just behind Transformers: Age of Extinction (which opened to $100 million) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million). It helped reverse a worrisome trend which, for the past several weeks, has seen the domestic box office at a loss to meet the revenue of summers past: This weekend, the total earned by the top 12 films ($172.6 million) was up 40 percent from the same frame last year. Finally, Guardians of the Galaxy proved itself a hit the world over, walking away from the weekend with an incredible $160.4 million worldwide total to its name.
Further data show women were in attendance in larger numbers than at any previous Marvel opening, as 44 percent of viewers were of the female persuasion. That’s a new high: The Avengers previously attracted the most women over its debut weekend, with an audience that was 40 percent female. Fifty-five percent of viewers for Galaxy was also over the age of 25, most likely lured by an aggressive marketing campaign that highlighted the film’s humor and the individual personalities of its five intergalactic protagonists. Speaking of marketing, many pundits were surprised the movie out-performed its tracking numbers - which had it pegged at a $65-$70 million debut - to the extent that it did, but Disney Distribution Chief Dave Hollis largely attributes the film’s success to a promotional campaign that saved 40 percent of its marketing for the week leading up to the premiere, according to Variety.
Lucy raked in $18.3 million this weekend, a downturn of 58 percent. While its drop may seem rather steep, given the film’s poor word-of-mouth (viewers awarded it a C+ CinemaScore grade last week) and crazy competition from those Guardians, its total isn’t too shabby.
Third place went to Get On Up, as expected. The film’s earnings were equally on par with expectations: Universal had predicted returns in the low teens, which is what the film delivered, grossing $14 million. That’s better than recent musical Jersey Boys, which bowed to $13.3 million, though considerably weaker than director Tate Taylor’s The Help ($35.9 million over its five-day opening). Still, viewers awarded the film a strong CinemaScore grade of an A, meaning word-of-mouth, coupled with its positive reviews, should help Get On Up reach a respectable total of $70 million or so.
Numbers four and five went to Hercules and its $10.7 million gross, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with its $8.7 million worth of earnings, respectively. Other notables included A Most Wanted Man, which retained its hold on the No. 10 position with $3.3 million, after having expanded to 729 theatres this weekend. Finally, Boyhood earned itself another distinction, that of the third highest-grossing film of all time for distributor IFC, just behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Richard Linklater’s latest is the very definition of a gamble that paid off.