Lucy Spanks Hercules
By John Hamann
July 27, 2014
Who wins a scrap between a Herculean demigod and the Black Widow? (Hint: Always bet on Marvel).
Admit it. If you’ve seen the early, absolutely glowing reviews for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the showdown between Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Hercules and Scarlett "ScarJo" Johansson might not be holding your attention. However, with a combined $73 million for our two big openers, the box is showing at least a little life this weekend in the lead up to another Marvel monstrosity.
Yes, it was Hercules versus a drugged up Lucy this weekend, as a battle of the middle-tier blockbusters took place this weekend. These are original, non-sequel movies with big stars, and two studios likely hoping to create franchises. A few years ago, my money would have been on The Rock to win this weekend’s battle, but ever since Johansson showed up in 2010’s Iron Man 2, her career has simply sizzled going forward, and not just as Black Widow. Her performances in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the Spike Jonze head-scratcher Her have further exposed her to new audiences. Dwayne Johnson made a shrewd move pushing himself into The Fast and Furious movies, appearing in Fast Five in 2011 and Fast & Furious 6 in 2013 (no comment on G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Outside of their franchise blockbusters, The Rock is more known for bringing the bigger openings, but today ScarJo stands tall, as she takes more of an action sci-fi ride with Luc Besson, the king of "the interesting female action type."
Our number one film of the weekend is Lucy, Luc Besson’s sci-fi action flick about a drug mule who becomes one with the stash, and the consequences when those drugs provide her with mega brain power. Marketing was everywhere coming into the weekend, and audiences pounced. Lucy picked up $2.7 million in Thursday previews, beating Hercules’ Thursday, and setting up what I thought would be a close race throughout the weekend. With the Thursday preview amount included, Lucy dominated Friday, sending Hercules to the side with a $17.1 million Friday gross. Outside of Marvel behemoths, large, not very good ensemble pieces (He’s Just Not That Into You) and SpongeBob SquarePants, that Friday gross beat Scarlett Johansson’s biggest weekend gross after only one day in release. For Universal, it was a reason to celebrate, as Lucy cost only $40 million to make, and that opening day is going to turn this one into a global smash.
Lucy was able to turn that $17.1 million into a huge weekend take of $44 million, easily taking down Hercules and all other comers this weekend. Released to 3,173 venues, Lucy had a hot venue average of $13,875, and gives us the biggest non-sequel summer opening since The Fault in our Stars earned $48 million in early June. It is becoming a big summer for female-centric films, as Lucy joins Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent, Tammy, Think Like a Man Too and The Other Woman (which opened April 25th) as decent earners at the summer box office. For Besson, this is by his far biggest North American debut as a director, as it more than doubles the first weekend of The Fifth Element, which debuted to $17 million way back in 1997. Besson has had many more releases as a producer, and even on that list, Lucy would rank between Taken and Taken 2, which opened to $24.7 and $49.5 million respectively.