Box Office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Amazes With Record $94.3M U.S. Debut

Guardians of the Galaxy Poster Crop - H 2014
Marvel Entertainment

Guardians of the Galaxy Poster Crop - H 2014

UPDATED: The quirky superhero tentpole easily rockets to the top August debut of all time in North America, as well as scoring the third-best launch of the year so far; overseas, it earns $67.4 million for a global opening of $161.7 million.

Rousing the ailing summer box office to life, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy opened to a record-breaking $94.3 million in North America, the top August debut of all time and besting every other summer tentpole save for Transformers: Age of Extinction in another sizeable victory for Marvel Studios.

Final numbers released Monday morning show Guardians coming in slightly ahead of Sunday's estimate ($94 million). Overseas, it also exceeded estimates, earning $67.4 million (Sunday's projection was $66.4 million) for a worldwide debut of $161.7 million. The 3D movie opened No. 1 in its first 42 markets, and saw big numbers in Russia ($13 million), the U.K. ($10.8 million), Mexico ($6.5 million) and Brazil ($5.4 million).

The Marvel and Disney tentpole did far more business than expected after receiving glowing reviews for its originality and an A CinemaScore from audiences. The movie, launching only the second in-house Marvel franchise after the Avengers series, received the widest release ever for an August title (4,080 theaters), and easily surpassed the debut of previous August record-holder, The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.3 million).

"Having a great movie that's original is such a rare thing anymore. This film and its reception around the world proves Marvel can break new ground with unique characters," said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, giving a shout-out to Alan Fine, head of Marvel's creative committee.

Guardians secured the best showing of the year so far for an original property, as well as coming in ahead of high-profile summer franchise installments Godzilla ($93.2 million), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million) and X-Men: Days of Future Past ($90.8 million). And it's the third best debut of the year so far after Age of Extinction ($100 million) and fellow Marvel movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million).

Paramount's Age of Extinction also made headlines Sunday in becoming the first movie of 2014 to hit $1 billion in global ticket sales, thanks to earning more than $300 million in China. Among other milestones, Godzilla crossed $500 million worldwide, while 22 Jump Street laughed its way past $100 million internationally for a worldwide total of nearly $290 million, almost $100 million more than 21 Jump Street.

Heading into the weekend, Guardians was projected to gross $65 million to $70 million in its domestic debut. 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.

Still, Guardians of the Galaxy won't be able to rescue the ailing summer overall in North America. Domestic revenue was up nearly 35 percent from the same frame last year -- the first time it has been up in weeks -- but the summer is still down by a large margin.

Featuring a rag-tag group of unlikely galactic heroes, Guardians stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace and Bradley Cooper, who voices the role of Rocket the raccoon. Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro also star.

Guardians wasn't a cheap proposition and cost $170 million to produce. That doesn't include Disney and Marvel's pricey and well-waged marketing campaign.

Hype around Guardians has been so high that Marvel and Disney have already announced plans for a July 28, 2017 sequel, with Gunn returning to direct.

The movie's tone is much different than the Avengers franchise, and is laced with humor. "It's much more of a space opera than a superhero movie," Gunn said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

This weekend's other new wide offering, James Brown biopic Get On Up, placed No. 3 with an OK $14 million after likewise earning an A CinemaScore. The movie was directed by The Help director Tate Taylor, and stars Chadwick Boseman as the legendary godfather of soul. Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment produced the $30 million film with Mick Jagger.

Universal is handling the release of Get On Up, and opened the biopic in the same corridor as The Help, which debuted to $26 million, and Lee Daniels' The Butler, which opened to just north of $24 million. Black moviegoers made up 70 percent of the audience; women, 63 percent.

Get on Up came in No. 3 after Guardians and fellow Universal title Lucy, which fell to No. 2 on its second Friday, falling a respectable 58 percent to $18.2 million for a pleasing domestic total of $79.6 million.

Paramount and MGM's Hercules continued to lag behind Lucy, falling to No. 4 in its second outing with $10.7 million for a domestic total of $52.3 million. The action epic tumbled a steep 63 percent. Overseas, the Dwayne Johnson movie took in $14.2 million from 35 markets to jump the $100 million worldwide, ending Sunday with a total $108.8 million.

Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rounded out the top five, grossing $8.7 million for a domestic total of $189.3 million). Internationally, the sequel grossed $47.5 million from 70 markets for a foreign cume of $260 million and worldwide haul of $449.3 million.

At the specialty box office, Anton Corbijn's spy thriller A Most Wanted Man, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, stayed at No. 10 in its second weekend as it expanded into a total of 729 theaters, grossing $3.3 million for a domestic total of $7.1 million for Roadside Attractions.

Richard Linklater and IFC Films' acclaimed indie drama Boyhood rocketed up to No. 11 as it upped its location count to 311 theaters, earning $2.5 million for a domestic total of $7.6 million.

Here are the top 10 estimates for the weekend of Aug. 1-Aug. 3 at the domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Friday Total, Percentage Change, Cume

1. Guardians of the Galaxy, 1/4,080, Disney/Marvel, $94 million.

2. Lucy, 2/3,202, Universal/EuropaCorp, $18.2 million, -58%, $79.6

3. Get On Up, 1/2,468, Universal, $14 million.

4. Hercules, 2/3,595, Paramount/MGM, $10.7 million, -64%, $52.3 million.

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 4/3,283, Fox, $8.7 million, -48%, $189.3 million.

6. Planes: Fire & Rescue, 3/3,241, Disney, $6.4 million, -33%, $47.6 million.

7. The Purge: Anarchy, 3/2,656, Universal, $5.6 million, -47%, $63 million.

8. Sex Tape, 3/2,500, Sony, $3.6 million, -41%, $33.9 million.

9. And So It Goes, 2/1,816, Clarius Entertainment, $3.34 million, -28%, $10.5 million.

10. A Most Wanted Man, 2/729, Roadside Attractions, $3.32 million, +24%, $7.1 million.

Twitter: @PamelaDayM