Universal’s executives were using a whole lot more than 10 percent of their brains when they green-lit Lucy. The action sci-fi film starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman granted super brain powers by an experimental drug grossed $44 million in its opening weekend; not record-breaking, but very solid for a medium-budget film (reportedly some $40 million). That’s the best opening of director Luc Besson’s career, and the best of Johansson’s career outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it suggests Johansson’s work as Black Widow in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier has raised her profile to new heights. The only bad news for all involved was the film’s C+ CinemaScore, which suggests its word-of-mouth won’t be strong. That’s not surprising given Lucy’s batshit crazy plot twists, but not a great sign for its financial future.
Lucy easily outdrew its big competition for the summer action movie crowd, the latest version of Hercules starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the Greek demigod. Johnson’s Hercules has already grossed more than January’s The Legend Of Hercules with Kellan Lutz, which made just $18.8 million its entire domestic theatrical run. The Johnson Hercules, which is directed by Brett Ratner, grossed an estimated $29 million in its first weekend in U.S. theaters, on par with recent Rock vehicles like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($27.3 million), but behind films like G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($40.5 million) and even the Rock’s first swords-and-sandals epic, The Scorpion King from way back in 2002 ($36 million). Its B+ CinemaScore suggests it might have better legs at the box office than Lucy, but this won’t be one of the legendary labors people talk about generations from now when they recount the adventures of The Rock.
The strongest holdover from last weekend was Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the latest installment in the long-running sci-fi franchise. Dawn, directed by Matt Reeves, and starring Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and digital inforation provided by Andy Serkis, made another $16.4 million in theaters last weekend, bringing its three-weekend domestic total to $172 million and making it the biggest hit of July by almost $100 million (its closest competition, Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, has made just over $78 million). The film has made another $181 million overseas, and the outlook for the already announced third Apes reboot film (which will also be directed by Reeves) is quite strong.
Although its latest entry, The Purge: Anarchy, dropped almost 67 percent last weekend, the outlook for The Purge franchise looks similarly rosy. Its $9.8 million last weekend brings its domestic total to $51.2 million; not great on the scale of a Planet Of The Apes, but very respectable for a film that cost just $9 million to make. (It’s earned almost exactly the same amount as its predecessor at this point in its theatrical run.) Disney’s Planes is another bargain franchise, but its latest installment, Planes: Fire & Rescue, hasn’t been repeating the original film’s box-office success. After a $9.3 million weekend, the latest Planes has made just $35.1 million in theaters, $10 million less than the first film after ten days of release. At this rate Disney may be purging future Planes films from its plans before you know it.
Although Richard Linklater’s Boyhood continues to be strong in limited release, grossing $1.7 million in just over 100 theaters, the best per-screen average of the weekend belonged to the new Woody Allen film, Magic In The Moonlight. The romantic comedy starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone made $426,000 on 17 screens around the country, for a PSA of $25,059.