Marvel’s got a new star (or five) in its roster: Guardians of the Galaxy launched to an estimated $94 million this weekend in 4,080 theaters, setting a new record for an August debut. (The previous winner was 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, with $69.3 million.) That’s the third biggest opening of 2014 so far, behind Transformers: Age of Extinction ($100 million) and Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million). It’s also the seventh best opening in history for a non-sequel (or sixth if you count Marvel’s The Avengers as a mega-sequel), outpacing other superhero series debuts such as 2011’s Thor ($65.7 million) and 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger ($65.1 million). One more fun stat: Guardians is Marvel’s ninth (!) consecutive No. 1 movie, a streak that reaches back to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), which debuted at No. 3.
Guardians was a $170 million gamble for Marvel that featured unfamiliar characters and an untested lead actor, Parks and Rec favorite Chris Pratt, who stars with Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. But a marketing campaign that highlighted the movie’s outer-space action and sarcastic, Iron Man-esque tone (not to mention Pratt’s newly sculpted physique) drew early buzz, and the movie’s release brought a wave of critical praise: Guardians scored a great 92 percent from reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- from EW’s Chris Nashawaty, who called it “a giddily subversive space opera that runs on self-aware smart-assery.” With an A CinemaScore, the PG-13 adventure looks likely to perform well in the coming weeks—and Marvel recently announced that a sequel is already in the works. The movie also earned $66.4 million overseas, bringing its global gross to a stellar $160.4 million.
The weekend’s other new wide release, the James Brown biopic Get On Up, earned an estimated $14 million, coming in at third place. Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) and starring Chadwick Boseman (42), the musical drama reportedly cost $30 million and received generally favorable reviews from critics, though EW’s Nashawaty noted that it plays too “safe” for a biopic about the Godfather of Soul. With an A CinemaScore, the movie could have legs. The film may also be opening too early to get the big-time awards attention that helped past music biopics like Ray, which opened to $20 million on its way to $75.3 million in 2004, or the genre’s all-time champ, 2005’s Walk the Line, which bowed to $22.3 million and ultimately grossed $119.5 million.
Get On Up didn’t have the box office moves to unseat Lucy in the No. 2 spot. The Luc Besson action pic, starring Scarlett Johansson as a super-intelligent avenger (not to be confused with the super-intelligent Avenger she plays in the Marvelverse), grossed $18.3 million this weekend, bringing its two-week domestic haul to $79.6 million – a hugely impressive performance for a first-time character without a book, comic, or TV series behind her.
In fourth place, Hercules bulked up another $10.7 million in its second weekend, contributing to a $52.4 million total for the Dwayne Johnson vehicle. And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, now in its fourth weekend, earned an estimated $8.7 million, bringing its domestic cume to $189.3 million – the eighth best of 2014 so far.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy – $94 million (new)
2. Lucy – $18.3 million ($79.6 million total)
3. Get On Up – $14 million (new)
4. Hercules — $10.7 million ($52.3 million total)
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes– $8.7 million Friday ($189.3 million total)
In the specialty market, two critical darlings raised their theater counts with promising results: The Philip Seymour Hoffman thriller A Most Wanted Man expanded into 729 theaters, earning $3.3 million for a total of $7.1 million, while Richard Linklater’s time-spanning opus Boyhood grew to 311 theaters and earned $2.52 million this weekend, bringing its total to $7.57 million.