Box Office: Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Lucy’ Scores $44M this Weekend and Ranks First!

Not to be outdone, Dwayne Johnson‘s Hercules opens to a respectable $29 million to place second in the weekend rankings.

The two big new releases, Scarlett Johansson‘s Lucy and Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules are both hits this weekend. This is also yet another example of why the obsession over rank is foolhardy. Yes, Universal’s sci-fi actioner easily topped the box office this weekend with a superb debut, but Paramount and MGM’s fantasy actioner is performed much better than I expected.

First off, Universal’s Lucy, which cost EuropaCorp around $40 million to produce, debuted with a whopping $44.025 million over the weekend, giving it a solid 2.57x weekend multiplier off a $17.1m opening day (and $2.8m worth of Thursday grosses).  This is a huge win for Scarlett Johansson. Coming off her Black Widow roles in the Marvel universe and her acclaimed art house triumph in Under the Skin, this should be her first $100m domestic hit outside of the Marvel universe while trouncing her biggest non-Marvel opening (He’s Just Not That Into You, an ensemble film, with a $27m debut and $93m final gross).

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This will easily be Luc Besson‘s biggest directorial box office hit, as it will pass the $63 million domestic gross of The Fifth Element by the middle of next weekend and should play like gangbusters overseas (The Fifth Element‘s $263m worldwide gross shouldn’t be a problem). It’s already his second biggest domestic grosser ever, topping the $36m gross of The Family from last year. Among films that the prolific French genre filmmaker has produced, the goalpost is the $145m domestic gross of Taken and the $363m global gross of Taken 2, both of which are possible without being explicitly plausible. The opening is Besson’s second-biggest as a producer or director, coming in just below the $48m debut of Taken 2. But pretty much any film Besson produced or directed aside from the Taken series and possibly The Fifth Element is going to be left in the dust.

The R-rated picture played 50% female and 65% over-25 years old. It played 35% Caucasian, 29% Hispanic, 19% African American, 12% Asian, and 5% “other.” It also played 12% on PLF screens. I’ll say this again and again, but the story of the summer box office should darn-well be the breakout success of female-skewing genre properties. This is a clear example of where a known but not explicitly box office “star” was pared with a simple but attractive concept (watch that female star you know get superpowers and kick butt) and the results show accordingly. I don’t know if the blatantly misleading marketing will hurt the film over the long run, but it certainly got audiences into the theater this weekend.

As the San Diego Comic Con panel ends this weekend with no major new female-centric superhero films from the DC/Marvel slate, it is worth noting that there are few (if any) male stars currently headlining the male-centric superhero films who could have pulled off an “all by myself” opening of this nature.

Despite doom-saying box office pundits who needed a catchy headline as a gateway into writing about something else, Hercules will not be the summer’s first box office flop. I’m happy to be wrong, as the summer’s “no studio mega-flops” streak continues into August. Despite terrible buzz, some misleading and relatively uninspiring marketing, and the film itself mostly being hidden from domestic press until the last minute, Brett Ratner’s Hercules scored a solid $29 million over its debut weekend, including $4m on IMAX. That’s about where Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow ended up on its debut weekend, but that film cost $175m while the Dwayne Johnson fantasy action-adventure film cost $100m to produce. Budgets matter, folks. It’s why 300: Rise of an Empire (budgeted at $110m) is a big hit at $330m worldwide while Edge of Tomorrow is struggling at $360m worldwide.

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This is easily Dwayne Johnson’s biggest “all by myself” debut weekend since his breakout in The Scorpion King ($36m) back in 2002, which had the bonus of being a Mummy Returns spin-off. Considering how uninspiring the film looked, again the film’s marketing campaign sold something the movie wasn’t, this is a case where star+concept (See The Rock as Hercules!) was enough to overcome the utter lack of anything else to entice moviegoers. The irony is that the picture was much better than anyone expected. As such, we’re seeing tons of “It’s actually pretty darn good!” reviews dropping over the weekend and it stands to reason that audiences will be surprised too. This one may just hang in there past opening weekend.

The one-two-three punch of Guardians of the GalaxyTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Expendables 3 is going to hurt, but Hercules stands a solid chance of being the second-choice consensus pick over the next month. It’s an old-school popcorn entertainment that should get positive word-of-mouth from Dwayne Johnson fans and action junkies. I still think Paramount made a mistake in hiding the film from critics, especially as said decision was arguably more about hiding their false advertising (the film isn’t remotely about Hercules fighting supernatural monsters while avenging his murdered family) than the film’s quality.

But the film didn’t go down in flames as some expected and may well be a big hit depending on how well it plays overseas. $100 million domestic is a possibility and numbers similar to Edge of Tomorrow or even 300: Rise of an Empire are quite plausible. In America, it played 58% male and 64% over-25 years old. It also made $28.7 million from nineteen international markets, including $12m in Russia, as the start of its overseas roll-out, giving the film a $57m worldwide bow. Again, this is just one weekend’s gross we’re talking about here, but perception matters right from the get-go. Dwayne Johnson’sHercules is no flop and I’m happy to be wrong on this one. It’s also a pretty good movie, and I’m even happier to be wrong on that score.

The other wide release, from Clarius Entertainment, is the Rob Reiner-directed comedy So It Goes. The Michael Douglas/Diane Keaton picture was obviously intended to be counter-programming for older audiences, but audience awareness was almost non-existent. So cue a rather terrible $4.55 million weekend gross on 1,762 screens. Blame the light marketing, which didn’t really sell the premise (Douglas being forced to care for a granddaughter and roping Keaton into the mix) and just-plain didn’t make its existence known. There really is a marketing difference when you compare smaller distributors to the major studios. But heck, even CBS Films was able to get Last Vegas to a $16m opening weekend last November and to a whopping $63m domestic gross.

Open Road Film’s The Fluffy Movie (a stand-up concert film featuring Gabriel Iglesias) debuted with $1.31 million on 432 screens. Alas…  A Most Wanted Man received a surprisingly wide release, as the Roadside Attractions spy thriller earned $2.7m on 361 theaters ($7,527 per-screen). Obviously the hook is that it’s the last starring role for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight (starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone as his daughter… er, I mean love interest*) opened on 17 screens from Sony Pictures Classics and grossed $425,720 for the weekend for a solid $25,042 per-screen average.

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In holdover news, IFC expanded Boyhood to 107 theaters this weekend and earned around $1.6m weekend. The acclaimed Richard Linklater drama has earned $4m domestic. 20th Century Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earned $16.4 million (-55%) on its third weekend, for a $172m domestic cume. It’s legs are starting to fall under its predecessor (which earned $16.1m on its third weekend for a 42% drop), but the $170m sequel will pass the $176m total of Rise of the Planet of the Apes in a couple days and will probably cross $200m probably the weekend after next.

‘Captain America 2′ Tops Box Office and Crosses $200M!

Heaven Is For Real is to The Grudge as God’s Not Dead is to The Ring. As the first major Christian-centric film to drop after the surprisingly successful God’s Not DeadHeaven Is For Real got to capitalize on being the next portion of a newly popular dish. The Asian horror remake fad frankly began and ended with The Ring and The Grudge, with none of the would-be cash-ins outside of those two franchises, not even the painfully underratedDark Water remake) topping $28 million domestic. In terms of Asian remakes of all genres, the Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves romantic drama The Lake House basically doubled nearly every Asian horror remake with $52m domestic in 2006 (it’s also a painfully underrated meditation on adult loneliness). But the only Asian remake that soared is the one that followed the one that kick started the trend.

All of this explains how a Greg Kinnear-led drama earned $28.5 million over its five-day debut. If God’s Not Dead possibly made the Christian drama into a somewhat more popular sub-genre, then Heaven Is For Real is the first one to capitalize accordingly. Releasing a religious-themed film, especially a family-friendly one somewhat dealing with resurrection (it’s about young boy who claims to have seen heaven following a near-death experience), over the Easter holiday, has its advantages. Many businesses and most schools were closed on Friday, which meant bigger business offerings such as this.  TheSony production opened on Wednesday with $3.7 million, earning another $3.3m on Thursday and now scored $21.5 million over the Fri-Sun weekend.

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That’s a 2.73x weekend multiplier, which is actually pretty good for Easter weekend. Easter weekend is legendary for some horrible multipliers, as The Hanna Montana Movie (2009) and African Cats(2011) are the third and fourth most front loaded weekends of all-time. The film earned nearly as much on Friday as previous sub-genre’s record holder God’s Not Dead earned on its Fri-Sun opening weekend ($9.2m), even with the $7m worth of Wed-Thurs tickets already accounted for. Considering the film’s $12m budget and strong word-0f-mouth among the targeted demographic, this one is already a big hit.  Chalk it up to the obvious buzz around God’s Not Dead (which ended the weekend just under $49m by the way) and the usual church-centric advertising that helps sell films like this, along with the presence of honest-to-goodness known actors like the always terrific Greg Kinnear and Thomas Hayden Church.

Heaven Is For Real played 62% female and 49% under 35 years old. Yes, it got an A+ from Cinemascore from under-35 demos for what that’s worth. As I’ve always said, there is real money to be made from demographics that aren’t explicitly targeted as a matter of habit. This one may well have legs, and it’s hard to imagine that it won’t at least come close to topping the $59m gross of 20th Century Fox’s Son of God and end up being the biggest ‘explicitly sold to Christians’ religious film ever released. I imagine the DVD will sell like hotcakes when the time comes. Four God-centric films in under two months: Son of GodGod’s Not DeadNoah, and now Heaven Is For Real. I hate trend pieces, but this looks like a trend.

What was supposed to be the big opener of the weekend qualifies as an out-and-out bomb. I generally try to avoid screaming “FLOP!” whenever possible, but there is absolutely no good news forTranscendenceTranscendence boasted terrible reviews, almost no buzz, a generic trailer, and a director who is notable among film nerds like myself (Wally Pfister was the DP on the last several Chris Nolan films). That it opened with a miserable $11.15 million weekend is mostly attributable to face-on-the-poster star Johnny Depp and audiences wanting something resembling a big film while they wait forThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 in two weeks.

Truth be told, there is a portion of moviegoers who will see whatever the “big” movie of a given weekend happens to be, but you need far more than those consistent regulars to show up. The Warner Bros. (a division of Time Warner TWX +1.02%) release cost $100 million, but as usual the money came from elsewhere. Alcon Entertainment co-financed the film with China’s DMG Entertainment (it opened yesterday in China as well).  SummitInternational sold  overseas rights to various independent distributors, which actually covered much of the budget.

The film played 54% male, 21% under 18, 44% under 25, and 56% over 25, earning a C+ from Cinemascore overall. Anyway, this one is a big miss, both because it’s not very good and because it’s an unfortunate case of an original star vehicle tanking. Oh well. Let’s hope Jupiter Ascending delivers this July in the realm of big-budget original sci-fi vehicles. This is simply a very bad film that couldn’t make the sell over opening weekend and now has no reason to have anything resembling legs. Sometimes, even with “big” films, the reviews matter. In defense of all parties involved, especially Depp, I’m sure Transcendence (an original science-fiction morality drama from the DP who shot Inceptionseemed great in theory.

The next opener was A Haunted House 2 from Open Road Films. The $3 million sequel to last year’s A Haunted House opened with $9.1m. That’s way down from the $18m opening weekend of A Haunted House last January. I suppose that’s unfortunate, but again, the Marlon Wayans comedy cost just $3m to produce, so I don’t think anyone will be too busted up about the not terribly surprising comedown. It won’t touch the first film’s $40m domestic gross, but at that budget, it really doesn’t have to.

If the film does well in after-theatrical, we may see another one next year anyway. My wife for some reason loves White Chicks so there is a good chance I’ll have to watch this on DVD. Pray for me. But then I owe her for making her sit through the original Godzilla with me last night. Black & White, full-frame, foreign with subtitles, it’s like a checklist of things my wife hates. Yes I’m aware of the irony. Hopefully at least one of my children will pick up the slack.

Also opening this weekend was Walt Disney’s DIS +1.32% Bears, which is about zebras. The harmless if somewhat patronizing animal documentary (I’m reasonably sure those bears aren’t thinking what John C. Reilly told me they were thinking) earned a mediocre $4.7 million over the weekend. That’s the lowest debut thus far for a Disneynature documentary, as Earth opened with $8m in 2009, Oceans and African Cats opened with $6m in 2010 and 2011, and Chimpanzees opened with $12m in 2012. Business is usually pretty brief for these documentaries, so don’t expect Bears to get much past $12m total.

In all honesty, these are glorified charity works from the Mouse House, offering stunning nature footage in a kid-friendly narrative that arguably works as a gateway drug into more realistic nature documentaries and/or a general interest in the natural world. Bears will probably end its run with around $12m and we’ll get another one, Monkey Kingdom, this time next year. My kids had a good time on Friday, and my daughter learned the lesson meant to be imparted by all nature documentaries: Being a wild animal stinks.

Opening in limited release was John Turtorro’s Fading Gigolo, which is also the rare film that features Woody Allen but isn’t directed by Allen. The film, which Tuturro directed, wrote, and starred in, opened on five theaters courtesy of Millenium Entertainment. They earned $198,399, with a $39,680 per-screen average, for their troubles. In holdover news, the weekend was again dominated by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Rio 2. The Walt Disney/Marvel sequel earned another $26 million for the weekend, down just 36% thanks to the holiday. The Chris Evans/Scarlett Johansson adventure has earned $201.5m domestic, passing the $176m total for Captain America and $181m total for Thor. It’s also now Robert Redford’s highest-grossing film ever, not adjusting for inflation of course. The real story is overseas, where the sequel has earned $385m for a worldwide cume of $586.6m.

20th Century Fox’s Rio 2 held okay, earning $22.5m on its second weekend (-43%) despite the holiday cushion. The $103m animated sequel has earned $75m domestic, already behind the $80m ten-day total of Rio. Worldwide, it was at $177m going into the weekend, so it’s just a question of how high over $200m it gets by tomorrow. They also earned $5.9m for Draft Day (-39%), giving the Kevin Costner football film $19.54m by the end of the today.  Lionsgate earned another $5.75m from Divergent, a solid 21% drop, bringing the franchise-starter’s cume to $133.9m. Oculus earned $5.2 million on its second weekend, an expected 57% drop for the Relativity horror film. The  film has earned $21.19m thus far. Paramount’s Noah earned $5m for a $93.2m cume. Finally, Universal’s Non-Stop crossed $90m this weekend.

That’s it for today. Join us next weekend for the calm before the summer storm. 20th Century Fox debuts the Cameron Diaz/Leslie Mann/Kate Upton comedy The Other Woman, Lionsgate drops The Quiet Ones, and Relativity debuts Brick Mansions, a Paul Walker/RZA remake of District B19. – Source: Forbes

‘Noah’ Rides Epic Wave to Top of Box Office!

Noah, the biblical epic starring Russell Crowe, sailed to the top at theaters this weekend, unseatingDivergent after just one week at No. 1 and clobbering Sabotage, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third straight flop.

Noah cruised to $44 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.

Analysts expected $30 million from the film, the latest in a raft of faith-themed movies out this year. Son of God ($57.9 million) and God’s Not Dead ($22 million) eclipsed projections — and God’s Not Dead remains in the top five. Heaven Is for Real (April 16) and Exodus (Dec. 12) remain on tap.

Analysts say that Noah‘s audience expanded beyond the religious because directorDarren Aronofsky added plenty of Hollywood touches to give the $125 million picture the feel of a mainstream disaster flick.

“It certainly feels like the ‘biggest’ film of 2014,” says Tim Briody, analyst for Box Office Prophets.

But how long will it reign? Noah finds itself in rarefied air: a special-effects movie that pleases critics — but apparently not fans.

About three-fourths of reviewers gave the movie a thumbs-up, according to Rotten Tomatoes. But only 49% of moviegoers liked it, the site says. And the movie earned a C from pollsters CinemaScore, imperiling its long-run box-office prospects.

Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo says that the movie may have alienated Christian audiences anticipating the film would hew closer to the Bible and not the “unexpected fantasy elements in the movie.”

Still, Noah collected plenty enough to dethrone Divergent, which took second with $26.5 million. The best-seller adaptation has collected $95.3 million in 10 days, and two sequels are in the works.

Muppets Most Wanted claimed third with $11.4 million, followed by Mr. Peabody & Sherman with $9.5 million.

God’s Not Dead was fifth with $9.1 million, marking another Hollywood rarity: two Christian-themed films in the top five.

Sabotage, Schwarzenegger’s latest and the only other major newcomer of the weekend, claimed seventh place with $5.3 million, about $3 million below expectations. The film comes on the heels of two box-office disappointments last year:Escape Plan, which collected $25 million, and The Last Stand, which mustered only $12 million.