By Daniel Garris
Guardians of the Galaxy arrived with a bang this weekend with a stronger than expected start of $94.32 million. The 3D sci-fi superhero film from Disney and Marvel soared past pre-release expectations which had tended to range anywhere from $65 million to $80 million. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Guardians of the Galaxy easily set a new opening record for the month of August. The previous high-mark was the $69.28 million debut of The Bourne Ultimatum back in 2007. It should be noted that when adjusting for ticket price inflation, Guardians of the Galaxy does rank slightly behind the $97.2 million adjusted debut of Rush Hour 2 (which opened with an actual gross of $67.41 million in 2001).
Guardians of the Galaxy delivered the third largest opening weekend performance of 2014 to date (behind only Transformers: Age of Extinction and Captain America: The Winter Solider). That Guardians of the Galaxy was able to open nearly on par with the $95.02 million debut of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, despite being a non-sequel based on a far less known pre-established property is quite the achievement and is a very strong sign for future Disney and Marvel projects heading into the future.
Guardians of the Galaxy opened with $37.85 million on Friday (which included a strong $11.2 million from Thursday evening shows), fell 18 percent on Saturday to take in $30.99 million and declined 18 percent on Sunday to gross $25.49 million. That gave the film an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.49 to 1. Guardians of the Galaxy will hope to hold up well going forward thanks to very strong critical reviews and strong early word of mouth (the film received an A rating on CinemaScore). However, it is still very possible that the film could be front-loaded given the nature of comic book adaptations in general and a number of new films that will provide direct competition in the weeks ahead (including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Let's Be Cops and The Expendables 3).
The audience breakdown for Guardians of the Galaxy skewed towards male moviegoers (56 percent) and towards moviegoers over the age of 25 (55 percent). Family audiences represented 26 percent of the film's overall audience. 3D grosses represented 45 percent of the film's overall gross this weekend.
Universal's Lucy placed in a distant second this weekend with $18.25 million. The modestly budgeted sci-fi action film starring Scarlett Johansson was down a sharp 58 percent from last weekend. Lucy was obviously hurt in a big way by the break-out performance of Guardians of the Galaxy and the film's lukewarm word of mouth didn't help matters either this weekend. With that said, Lucy continues to exceed expectations nicely with a strong ten-day start of $79.54 million. That places the film 12 percent ahead of the $71.03 million ten-day take of 2010's Salt (which fell 46 percent in its second weekend to gross $19.47 million).
Fellow Universal release Get on Up opened in third with $13.59 million. The James Brown biopic starring Chadwick Boseman opened below expectations, as it too was likely hurt a bit by the breakout start of Guardians of the Galaxy. Get on Up was unable to excite moviegoers anywhere near to the same extent as last year's 42 (which also starred Boseman). Get on Up debuted 51 percent softer than the $27.49 million debut of 42.
Get on Up started up with $4.89 million on Friday, increased 5 percent to gross $5.15 million on Saturday and declined 31 percent on Sunday to gross $3.55 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.78 to 1. The audience breakdown for Get on Up skewed towards female moviegoers (63 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers 25 years and older (90 percent). The film will hope that largely positive reviews and a strong A rating on CinemaScore will help lead to strong holding power going forward.
On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start, Hercules tumbled in its second weekend with a fourth place take of $11.01 million. The Dwayne Johnson led 3D action-adventure film from Paramount and MGM was down a very sharp 63 percent from last weekend. While Hercules was always extremely likely to be front-loaded to begin with, the competition from Guardians of the Galaxy obviously took an extra toll on the film. Hercules does continue to perform ahead of its relatively modest expectations with a ten-day start of $52.66 million. But this weekend's hold is a troubling sign going forward, especially with the already mentioned upcoming direct competition on the horizon.
Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rounded out the weekend's top five with $8.69 million. The critically acclaimed 3D sci-fi action sequel was down 48 percent. Despite strong word of mouth, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has taken a hit from all of the new direct competition the past two weeks. In the bigger picture, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues to perform well with a 24-day take of $189.32 million. That leaves the film $10.68 million away from reaching the $200 million domestic milestone and places the film an impressive 27 percent ahead of the $148.67 million 24-day take of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.