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Weekend Box Office: Smart Lucy Beats Down Brawny Hercules at Box Office

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By Chris Kavan - 07/27/14 at 09:08 PM CT

As Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome gave us: "Two men enter, one man leave." In the case of this weekend's box office - two action-packed movies entered, only one came out on top. Even with both of the said movies performing above expectations, it still wasn't enough to save July from gaining over last year as, overall, the weekend was down 15% compared to last year - a trend that has become all too familiar. The only hope is that Guardians of the Galaxy can exceed expectations, though even a huge opening isn't likely to save the summer.

1) LUCY

In the battle of the kick-ass action stars, brains and beauty was the clear winner as Lucy brought in $44 million. That is the biggest opening yet for Scarlett Johansson (as the lead) - and it also topped its $40 million budget in a single weekend. While the opening couldn't match the likes of Wanted ($50.9 million) or Taken 2 ($49.5 million) - it did top both The Bourne Legacy ($38.1 million) and Salt ($36 million). But the big news is that the film opened as high as it did despite the fact it was A) rated R and B) not based on an existing franchise or series (not a reboot, sequel or spin-off). The only factor that may be a warning for the future is that is received a decidedly mediocre "C+" Cinemascore. The audience was split evenly between men and women and ran older (65% over 25). Even if the movie doesn't generate that great of word-of-mouth, it's likely to wind up with over $100 million by the time it's done. That's good news for Universal Pictures as Lucy is its fourth film of the year to top the $35 million mark in its opening weekend and is now tied with 20th Century Fox for the most movies to open in the top slot (five movies and counting).

2) HERCULES

With Lucy handily taking the top spot at the box office, Dwayne Johnson as the well-toned mythological Hercules had to settle for the second spot with a $29 million opening. For Johnson, it's not exactly a home run, as The Scorpion King took in $36 million 12 years ago. It was also a step down from like-minded films Wrath of the Titans ($33.5 million) and Immortals ($32.2 million). Still, it outperformed early expectations (which sat around $25 million) and given the popularity of Johnson, and the decent "B+" Cinemascore, the movie should have an easier time attracting an audience. However, that same audience will also be flooding theaters for Guardians of the Galaxy, meaning Hercules is not going to top $100 million domestically (which also happens to be its budget) and it likely to top out at $75 million or so. But it should have no problem making back its money in the international market, which is fast becoming just as important as its US effort.

3) DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

With Lucy and Hercules fighting for the top spot, two-week champion Dawn of the Planet of the Apes fell a hefty 55%. The sequel took in $16.4 million to raise its total to $172 million - officially shooting passed its $170 million budget. By next weekend it will top Rise of the Planet of the Apes $176.8 million and is still looking at a final tally in the $210 million range. Given how hard it has been to reach the $200 million mark this year - that should be considered a rather impressive accomplishment indeed.

4) THE PURGE: ANARCHY

The horror sequel took a predicable second-week dip - 67% to be exact - taking in $9.9 million, crossing the $50 million mark with a new total of $51.2 million. It was an improvement over The Purge, which dropped an even harder 76% in its second weekend. Even though it is falling fast, Anarchy should also be able to top the original film's $64.5 million total - and we're likely to see yet another trip back to Purge territory, considering it has done all this on a budget of a mere $9 million, proving once again that low-budget horror with a high return still gives the studios a good reason to take a chance on a genre with a bumpy track record.

5) PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE

Yet another sequel in the top five, the animated Planes dropped 47% and took in $9.3 million for a new total of $35.1 million. The film is going to fall far short of the $90.2 million the original film wound up making and is likely to struggle to reach its $50 million budget. Overall, it has been a disappointing summer for animated films - quite the anomaly, really, but things will hopefully get back on track next year when Pixar flexes its muscles once again.

Outside the top five: The week's other new wide-release film, And So It Goes, the rom-com from Rob Reiner, opened in 8th place with a $4.55 million. It opened in roughly a third of the theaters compared to Lucy and Hercules, but that total still has to be considered pretty disappointing.

The big news was in the limited release department. The final film of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, A Most Wanted Man, cracked the top 10, opening with $2.71 million (opening in just 371 theaters). That represents the second-best opening for Roadside Attractions and topped last year's Mud ($2.2 million). Given the reaction, and Hoffman's death, expect this film to expand significantly in the coming weeks.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood also continued its expansion, adding 73 theaters for a total count of 107. Adding $1.72 million (rising from 15th to 14th place), the film now stands at $4.1 million as its nationwide roll out continues.

On the opposite side, Zach Braff's latest Kickstarter-funded Wish I Was Here had a disappointing as it added 557 theaters for a new total of 625, but only took in $1.1 million (18th place). The movie now stands at $1.8 million and will come nowhere near Garden State's $26.8 million total.

Finally, Woody Allen's latest, Magic in the Moonlight, premiered in 17 theaters with $426,000 (or a $25,059 per-theater average). Both Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris opened to bigger numbers in fewer theaters, so it's likely Magic is going to top out below $20 million.

Next week all eyes are going to be on Guardians of the Galaxy - and we'll see if Marvel's misfit crew can finally give the summer a boost. The other film of note is the James Brown biopic Get On Up (starring Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis), which may be good counter-programming but isn't likely to make many waves.

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