Box Office Report: Scarlett Johansson Powers Lucy To #1

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The year of ScarJo continued in high fashion this weekend, with the action-thriller Lucy surpassing expectations and reaching the #1 spot at the North American box office. Taking in an estimated $44 million from 3,173 theatres, Lucy became the actor’s biggest opening for a non-Marvel film. That is also a larger opening than Salt ($36 million), which starred kick-ass heroine Angelina Jolie and opened in late July, 2010.

With Johansson receiving a lot of acclaim this year for her roles in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Her and Under the Skin, a lack of options for female moviegoers and a dazzling trailer, Lucy was expected to open at the top – but not to this extent. With competition from Hercules and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, mixed reviews and an R rating, an opening over $40 million is a big surprise.

Lucy is the fourth original film from Universal to open at #1 this year – after Lone Survivor, Ride Along and Neighbors – and the third of the pack to have an R rating and make more than $35 million in the first three days of wide release. The thriller, budgeted at just $40 million, should be a profitable hit for the studio and also shows that Johansson has what it takes to open a film solo. However, with mixed audience reception (a C+ CinemaScore) and many action-oriented films coming in August, Lucy may not have a long run in theatres. Still, a $100 million take is a good bet.

Not going the distance to #1, but with a solid opening in second place, was Brett Ratner’s Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson. Taking in $29 million, Hercules managed to grab a good-sized audience despite a lot of action competition and lacklustre trailers. Similar to Lucy‘s opening, one can credit the larger-than-expected gross on the merits of its headlining star, who had been absent from film for a while. Hercules also marked the 12th film with Johnson in a major role to open above $20 million.

Although it did not reach the heights of The Scorpion King ($36.1 million in its opening weekend), Hercules had less hype and more competition to deal with. Despite better-than-expected reviews and a B+ CinemaScore, the film may not have much muscle in August, when it has to compete with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Expendables 3 and other action-packed films. Still, despite a $100 million budget, the film should do well enough overseas to turn the Paramount-MGM vehicle into a decent-sized moneymaker. (Internationally, Hercules picked up an extra $28.7 million this weekend.)

With two action movies opening big, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes dropped 55% to make $16.4 million and take third place. After 17 days, the sequel has grossed $172.1 million and should surpass the total domestic gross of Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Tuesday or Wednesday and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake by Friday. The 3D film is on its way to grossing upward of $210 million in North America and could break the half-billion dollar mark worldwide.