Luc Besson's "Lucy" proved mind can overpower muscle, topping a remake of "Hercules" by director Brett Ratner at the box office on the weekend.
The Universal Pictures-released movie starring Scarlett Johansson as an accidental psychokinetic took in $44 million in North American movie theaters over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
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"Hercules," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and produced by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, brought down an estimated $29 million.
Universal's president of domestic distribution, Nikki Rocco, said audiences were attracted to the original story about the main character gaining superhuman powers by using more and more of her brain.
People also wanted to see Johansson in an action role, something she's done more frequently in movies like "The Island" (2005), "Iron Man 2" (2010), "The Avengers" (2012) and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014).
"The main reasons for coming to see the film were the story, and then Scarlett," Rocco said. "She's very diversified in what she does. Luc brought out the best of her in this movie."
"Lucy," rated R, opens internationally next week.
Meanwhile, Johnson's draw with men, women and children helped "Hercules" power into the No. 2 spot. In addition to its domestic haul, the film brought in $28.7 million from Russia, Australia, Britain, Malaysia and other countries in Asia.
Megan Colligan, Paramount's head of domestic marketing and distribution, said Johnson once again proved his appeal as a global action star who fights bad guys with a "a wink and a smile."
"He can be very serious and menacing and imposing, and he has this ability to melt it all away, which is why women show up for a movie like this," Colligan said. "He has a lot of appeal for kids."
Johnson himself drove over half of the buzz on social media platforms like Twitter, said Benjamin Carlson, president of tracking firm Fizziology.
"They weren't talking about any of the co-stars or Brett Ratner, the director," Carlson said. "It was all about 'The Rock' with this film."
Despite the two films' solid performances, the summer box office is still down by around one-fifth compared to last year, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.
That's partly because one would-be huge performer, "Fast & Furious 7" was postponed from its July 11 release due to the death of actor Paul Walker, he said. This summer also lacked some other blockbuster sequels like last year's "Despicable Me 2."
That puts a lot of pressure on "Guardians of the Galaxy," a Marvel superhero film being released in the U.S. next week, to outperform, he said.
Even though it features lesser-known characters, including Chris Pratt as Peter Quill and Zoe Saldana as Gamora, it could still break out, Dergarabedian said.
"Any time you have a Marvel movie in the summer, it's still a factor," he said.
Another film that opened in wide release over the weekend was the Rob Reiner-directed romantic comedy "And So It Goes," starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, which collected an estimated $4.6 million, according to distributor Clarius Entertainment.
"Boyhood," a Richard Linklater film that tracks the life of a boy from age 5 to 18, gained traction in its third week of release by distributor IFC Films with $1.7 million from just 107 locations.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.
1. "Lucy," $44 million.
2. "Hercules," $29 million.
3. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," $16.4 million.
4. "Purge: Anarchy," $9.9 million.
5. "Planes: Fire & Rescue," $9.3 million.
6. "Sex Tape," $6 million.
7. "Transformers: Age of Extinction,"$4.6 million.
8. "And So It Goes," $4.6 million.
9. "Tammy," $3.4 million.
10. "A Most Wanted Man," $2.7 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/rnakashi