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Box Office: Guardians of the Galaxy Scores Best August Opening of All Time, Third Best Best Opening of 2014

Here’s what happened at the box office this weekend: anyone who doubted Guardians of the Galaxy was wrong, and everyone who thought it was going to be a huge hit was right.  However, very few saw it hitting this big, scoring $94 million when its best case scenario projection had been a $65-70 million debut. Elsewhere, Lucy dipped a bit more than hoped, Get On Up did Jersey Boys-sized biz, and Transformers crossed $1 billion worldwide.

Here’s the latest Box Office Top 10 (this list has been updated on 8/5/14 with the actual totals instead of the estimated – there were no significant changes other than Guardians and Hercules both making slightly more than had been estimated):

Top 10 Actual Domestic Totals (8/1-8/3)

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (Opening Weekend)

Guardians Logo

  • Weekend Gross=$94.3 million
  • Budget=$170 million

Foreign: $66.4 million in 42 markets for a global opening of $160.7 million.  That’s only from 50% of the marketplace meaning there are still some big openings left to go.

Yes, this is Marvel’s first non-super hero comic book movie.  Yes, it’s based upon a comic book than not even some of the most hardcore comic book faithful read.  Yes, the box office history of film adaptations of fringe, cult classic comics is not good.  Yes, the recent box office for space-based sci-fi fare has not been encouraging.  For all of those reasons and more, this was the biggest risk in Marvel Studios’ history since they first began and gave Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr. the keys to the Iron Man kingdom.

However, while this has been trumped up (even by me) as the biggest ever test of Marvel Studio’s brand loyalty (i.e., Will people go see something Marvel makes which is not based on a character audiences kind of already knew about beforehand?) it was really a bigger test for their marketing.  They clearly sunk a crap-ton of money into that area thus meaning that even non-comic book readers probably had a general idea as to who the Guardians were before walking into the theaters this weekend.  The ads have been everywhere, the trailers pretty much uniformly strong if not brilliant, the buz and critical response euphoric, and the result is easily the biggest August opening ever (suck it, Bourne Ultimatum‘s $69 million).  Moreover, this is one of the biggest openings of the year, ahead of Godzilla ($93.2 million), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million) and X-Men: Days of Future Past ($90.8 million) while trailing Age of Extinction ($100 million) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million).

Still, how did this happen?  Well, that will be a topic of much debate and analysis, but the answer might be very old: they managed reach that coveted 18-34 male demographic.  According to THR:

Males made up the majority of the audience (56 percent), and especially older teens and young adult men, a coveted demo that is getting harder and harder for Hollywood to please (46 percent of the audience was between the ages of 17 and 34). Fittingly, Imax theaters delivered $17 million globally, an August best.

2. Lucy

Lucy ScarJo

  • Weekend Gross=$18.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$79.5 million
  • Budget=$40 million

Foreign: In its (albeit limited) international debut, Lucy took in $5.1 million this weekend for a worldwide total of $84.6 million

This is a 58% drop from last weekend, which is a bit worse than your normal Luc Besson film, but, then again, most of them don’t make over $40 million in their opening weekend.  Compared to somewhat similar late July/early August releases, Lucy‘s dip is again a bit worse, Salt only dropped 46%, The Bourne Legacy 55%.  However, again, neither of those made over $40 million in their opening weekend.

Lucy is still on track to pass $100 million domestic.

3. Get On Up (Opening Weekend)


  • Weekend Gross=$13.5 million
  • Budget=$30 million

Foreign: No international box office yet.

August is suddenly a time when Hollywood thinks it a good idea to put out an African-American leaning release.  The Help was a stunning hit in August 2011, scoring $167 million domestic on a $25 million production budget.   to make.  Then, The Butler ruled the box office last August, ending its run with $116 million.  So, here we are with Get On Up, which is not to say that a James Brown biopic holds an exclusive appeal to African Americans, or that only black people saw The Help and The Butler.  Or that Get On Up is actually all that similar of a film to either of those.  However, considering the time of release and complexions of the cast the comparisons are unavoidable, and as you might expect Get On Up‘s sub-$14 million isn’t quite as good as either of those (The Help debuted with $26 million, The Butler with $24 million).

Compared to recent music bio-pics, this is almost identical to Jersey Boys ($13.3 million) but well behind Notorious ($20 million), Walk The Line ($22 million million), and Ray ($20 million).

4. Hercules


  • Weekend Gross=$11 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$52.6 million
  • Budget=$100 million

Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $56.5 million making for a worldwide total of $109.1 million

Eh.  As of late, movies like Hercules just simply do not do very well at the domestic box office.  So, here we are in its second weekend, watching it dip a very sub-par 64% after its not-good-enough $30 million debut last weekend.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all a bit alarming for a movie that cost $100 million to make, and shouldn’t Dwayne The Rock Johnson be doing better than this?

Just you wait.  While Hercules now seems almost certain to fail to reach $100 million domestic, more likely to stall out in the sub-$80 million territory, the true story will be how well it plays internationally, where it is continuing a slow roll-out.  How do we know if this thing is truly a failure?  Well, we actually have no way of knowing that without looking at the studio’s books (which ain’t happening).  But, just in a general sense, if they managed to double that $100 million budget in worldwide gross it can be considered to have broken even.  Let’s see if it will be the rest of the world to the rescue for Hercules.

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 


  • Weekend Gross=$8.6 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$189.2 million
  • Budget=$170 million

Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $258.2 million making for a worldwide total of $447.4 million

Dawn has easily passed Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ entire North American total ($176 million), and will probably pass its worldwide total ($481 million) in a little over a week, if not sooner.  Moreover, it should also soon join Days of Future Past, Maleficent, Transformers, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 in this summer’s $200 million domestic club.

6. Planes: Fire & Rescue 

  • Weekend Gross=$6 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$47.1 million
  • Budget=$50 million

Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $30 million making for a worldwide total of $77.1 million

7. Purge: Anarchy 


  • Weekend Gross=$5.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$63.2 million
  • Budget=$9 million

Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $6.7 million making for a worldwide total of $69.9 million

After only 17 days of release, Anarchy is now less than a $1 million away from surpassing the first Purge‘s domestic total ($64 million).  What can we learn from this?  Audiences really dug the story set-up of the first Purge, which was effectively communicated in the marketing, but it dropped off so big after its first weekend that clearly audiences just didn’t like the movie all that much.  Now, Anarchy threw a twist (set outside instead of instead) on the story set-up, and managed to actually be a far better film than its predecessor in the process, ergo, a slightly superior box office performance.

8. Sex Tape  

  • Weekend Gross=$3.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$33.9 million
  • Budget=$40 million

Foreign: Currently, it has an international gross of $17.8 million making for a worldwide total of $51.7 million

9. And So It Goes 


  • Weekend Gross=$3.26 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$10.3 million
  • Budget=They’d rather not say

Foreign: No international box office yet

This is already a higher gross than what director Rob Reiner’s last two movies (The Magic of Belle Isle, Flipped) made combined (less than $2 million) from their entire run.

10. A Most Wanted Man


  • Weekend Gross=$3.24 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$6.9 million
  • Budget=They’re not telling

Foreign: No international box office yet

Indie distributor Roadside Attractions’ two biggest hits to date are Mud (21.5 million) and The Conspirator ($11.5 million) meaning that something like A Most Wanted Man being at $7 million after just 10 days is about as hot of a start as it gets for them.

What Fell Out of the Top 10?:

Transformers: Age of Extinction (#7 to #12) and Tammy (#9 to #13). Age of Extinction has now crossed $1 billion in worldwide gross, around a quarter of which has came from the U.S./Canada ($241 million).

What’s Up Next?:

The Hundred-Foot Journey, Into the Storm, Step Up All In, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  That’s right – 4, count them, 4 new movies are opening wide on Friday.  Hundred-Foot Journey is Helen Mirren’s attempt at a Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-like international crowd-pleaser, tornado-happy Into the Storm tries to score big with low-budget special effects, Step Up All In reminds us that the Step Up movies keep getting made, and TMNJ courts kids and nostalgic millenials but battles what appears to be a complete lack of pre-release buzz.  Several of these are clear counter-programming efforts, but all of them were dated for next weekend at a time when Guardians was expected to be a modest hit, at best.  They were wrong.  Will Guardians suffer a big dip due to the overdose of competition?  Or will all of the new entrants shudder in Guardians‘ wake?



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