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Weekend Report: ‘Lucy' Wins Brain vs. Brawn Battle

by Ray Subers
Lucy
 

 
July 27, 2014

Scarlett Johansson easily out-muscled Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on the final weekend of a very weak month at the box office.

In another big win for Universal Pictures, Lucy took first place with over $43.9 million. Meanwhile, Hercules had to settle for runner-up with a lukewarm $29.8 million debut.

Overall, the Top 12 earned $136.8 million this weekend; that's down 13 percent from the same frame last year.

Lucy
's opening weekend didn't quite match similar movies like Wanted ($50.9 million) or Taken 2 ($49.5 million). The fact that it even came close, though, is a fairly remarkable feat for this moderately-budgeted original action movie. Among other similar titles, it crushed The Bourne Legacy ($38.1 million) and Salt ($36 million).

It's also the fourth Universal Pictures release to open north of $35 million this year; the other three are Lone Survivor, Ride Along and Neighbors. This is even more impressive considering all four titles are "original" (i.e. not sequels, prequels or spin-offs) and three of the four are rated R. It's also their fifth first place opening of the year—the previously listed titles, plus Non-Stop—which is tied with 20th Century Fox.

Lucy
's success can be attributed to a few factors. First, the movie had an intriguing premise (what if we could use more than 10% of our brains?) that was front-and-center in action-packed, visually-stunning advertisements. It helped that actress Scarlett Johansson's lead role here seemed like a natural extension of the butt-kicking brand she's built as Black Widow in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Recognizing that audiences were connecting with the material, Universal made the savvy decision to move Lucy up from mid-August—where it would have been in a Guardians/Turtles/Expendables sandwich—to this less-competitive late July date.

Lucy
's audience was split evenly between men and women, and 65 percent of moviegoers were over the age of 25. It received a "C+" CinemaScore, which suggests word-of-mouth will be mixed. Still, it's a safe bet that Lucy winds up earning at least $100 million.

Opening at 3,595 theaters, Hercules took second place this weekend with $29.8 million. That's not a particularly strong start: in comparison, star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's The Scorpion King opened to $36 million over 12 years ago. It also started off a bit lower than Wrath of the Titans ($33.5 million) and Immortals ($32.2 million).

Still, it could have been much worse: the movie's sword-and-sandals, CGI-heavy action looked fairly generic, as did the movie's run-of-the-mill story (are moviegoers all that interested in the untold story of Hercules?). The fact that Hercules got close to $30 million is a testament to The Rock's ability to mobilize his massive fanbase. He's been aggressively promoting the movie since filming began last year, and the message connected with at least some of his 37-million-plus Facebook fans and 7 million-plus Twitter followers.

The audience for Hercules was 58 percent male and 64 percent over the age of 25. They gave the movie a decent "B+" CinemaScore. With tough competition from Guardians of the Galaxy coming up, Hercules has zero chance of making it to $100 million; still, it should eventually make it past $75 million.

Of course, Hercules is the type of movie that is going to make the majority of its money outside of the U.S. Check the Around-the-World Roundup for first impressions on its overseas potential.

After holding well last weekend, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took a beating from the two newcomers. The simian sequel fell 54 percent to $16.8 million, which brings its 17-day total to $172.5 million. In a few days, Dawn will pass Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($176.8 million), and remains on pace for at least $210 million total.

The Purge: Anarchy
added $10.5 million this weekend, which represents a steep 65 percent drop from its opening. In comparison, the first Purge fell 76 percent in its second weekend. Anarchy has now earned $51.9 million, and should ultimately close ahead of the first movie's $64.5 million total.

Planes: Fire & Rescue
rounded out the Top Five with $9.5 million (down 46 percent). Meanwhile, Sex Tape plummeted 59 percent to $6.05 million.

Michael Douglas/Diane Keaton rom-com And So It Goes opened at 1,762 theaters and earned $4.6 million. That's not a particularly good opening, though it is a vast improvement over the first release from distributor Clarius Entertainment (May's Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return at $3.7 million).

Continued with a look at 'A Most Wanted Man,' 'Boyhood,' 'Magic in the Moonlight' and the Around-the-World Roundup >>

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Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

This Weekend's Forecast:
Forecast: 'Lucy' to Beat Up 'Hercules' This Weekend

This Weekend in Past Years:
• 2013 - 'Wolverine' Bleeds, But Still Easily Leads
• 2011 - 'Captain America' Rockets to the Top, 'Potter's Bubble Bursts
• 2010 - 'Inception' Maintains Grip, 'Salt' Savors Second Place
• 2009 - 'G-Force' Takes Cake, 'Potter' Plummets
• 2008 - 'Dark Knight' Massive in Second Weekend
• 2007 - 'Simpsons' Leap to Big-Screen Success
• 2006 - 'Pirates' Loot Piles Up, 'Lady' Walks Plank
• 2005 - 'Island' Deserted, 'Chocolate,' 'Wedding' Take Cake

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