LOS ANGELES -- Last weekend's box office was an action-packed showdown between a drug-altered superhuman and a fearless Greek god. The drug-altered superhuman won.
Universal's Lucy led the multiplex after it took in an impressive $43.8 million in its first weekend, according to studio estimates.
With Lucy, director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element) continues to craft sophisticated, female-driven action. The high-concept action flick stars Scarlett Johansson as Lucy, a party girl turned unwitting drug mule who, after an accidental chemical overdose, begins to use a higher percentage of her brain and gains physical and intellectual powers.
The R-rated film, which co-stars Morgan Freeman and cost $40 million, benefited from a sleek marketing campaign that attracted a mostly older audience (65 percent of ticket buyers were 25 and up) and was evenly split between male and female, according to exit-poll data.
That performance was more than enough for Lucy to trump Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' Hercules, which took in $29.8 million over the weekend.
Directed by Brett Ratner, the film -- which had a $100 million budget -- follows the divine hero, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, as he leads a band of mercenaries to help end a civil war. The film was based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars.
Ratner's film was the second Hercules movie to hit the big screen this year. Kellan Lutz played the hero in The Legend of Hercules, which flopped when it was released in January (it cost about $70 million and grossed $8.9 million in its opening weekend).
"On paper you'd think The Rock would have the advantage on an action film. But Lucy had a terrific trailer, and great marketing," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at entertainment data firm Rentrak. "Hercules, though, did very well in our [exit] surveys. It's a crowd-pleaser that may do well over time."
Rounding out the weekend's top five were a trio of sequels: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Purge: Anarchy and Planes: Fire & Rescue.
In its third weekend in theaters, Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes moved closer to the $200 million domestic mark with a $16.7 million take that pushed the sequel's cumulative total to $172.4 million. Universal's The Purge: Anarchy added $10.4 million to its tally, crossing the $50 million mark in its second week. Disney's animated Planes: Fire & Rescue, also in its second week in release, pulled in $9.5 million.
A number of limited releases also had notable weekends.
A Most Wanted Man, which features one of the final performances of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, grossed $2.6 million on 361 screens, while comedian Gabriel Iglesias' film The Fluffy Movie took in $1.3 million from 432 screens, and Boyhood -- which expanded to 107 theaters -- grossed $1.7 million, bringing its total to $4.1 million.
The summer box office still hasn't rebounded from its slump, with domestic totals down 20 percent. And in a season that has included plenty of popcorn blockbusters -- intergalactic robots (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Spider-Man, a Tom Cruise tent pole (Edge of Tomorrow), genetically evolved primates (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) -- no film has been able to top $300 million.
"We've had a pretty tough summer," Dergarabedian said. "It comes down to the product. [But] there's been big things and little things: [Soccer] World Cup, the Fourth of July falling on a Friday, certainly didn't help. This all added to a rough summer. A year from now we'll be sitting on a 20 percent advantage. It's an interesting thing."
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Rentrak, are:
Lucy, Universal, $43,899,340, 3,173 locations, $13,835 average, $43,899,340, one week.
Hercules, MGM/Paramount, $29,800,263, 3,595 locations, $8,289 average, $29,800,263, one week.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox, $16,767,260, 3,668 locations, $4,571 average, $172,455,888, three weeks.
The Purge: Anarchy, Universal, $10,482,760, 2,856 locations, $3,670 average, $51,858,904, two weeks.
Planes: Fire and Rescue, Disney, $9,529,656, 3,839 locations, $2,482 average, $35,347,480, two weeks.
Sex Tape, Columbia, $6,052,050, 3,062 locations, $1,977 average, $26,953,582, two weeks.
Transformers: Age of Extinction, Paramount, $4,702,553, 2,476 locations, $1,899 average, $236,455,028, five weeks.
And So It Goes, Clarius Entertainment, $4,642,329, 1,762 locations, $2,635 average, $4,642,329, one week.
Tammy, Warner Bros., $3,454,221, 2,562 locations, $1,348 average, $78,201,312, four weeks.
A Most Wanted Man, Roadside, $2,686,526, 361 locations, $7,442 average, $2,686,526, one week.
22 Jump Street, Columbia/MGM, $2,600,471, 1,613 locations, $1,612 average, $185,754,570, seven weeks.
How to Train Your Dragon 2, Fox/DreamWorks Animation, $2,234,919, 1,358 locations, $1,646 average, $165,663,792, seven weeks.
Maleficent, Disney, $1,835,238, 1,077 locations, $1,704 average, $232,174,416, nine weeks.
Boyhood, IFC, $1,761,873, 107 locations, $16,466 average, $4,162,681, three weeks.
Begin Again, Weinstein, $1,574,846, 1,244 locations, $1,266 average, $12,310,753, five weeks.
Earth to Echo, Relativity, $1,387,368, 1,272 locations, $1,091 average, $35,531,824, four weeks.
The Fluffy Movie, Open Road, $1,311,446, 432 locations, $3,036 average, $1,311,446, one week.
Wish I Was Here, Focus, $1,154,548, 625 locations, $1,847 average, $1,879,788, two weeks.
America: Imagine A World Without Her, Lionsgate, $903,937, 760 locations, $1,189 average, $13,242,504, five weeks.
Chef, Open Road, $763,624, 405 locations, $1,885 average, $27,262,926, 12 weeks.
MovieStyle on 08/01/2014
Print Headline: Lucy is stronger than Hercules