This weekend's box office was an action-packed showdown between a drug-induced superhuman and a fearless Greek god. The drug-induced superhuman won.
Universal's "Lucy" led the multiplex after it took in an impressive $44 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 utilize a higher percentage of her brain and gains metaphysical and intellectual powers.
The R-rated film, which costars Morgan Freeman and cost $40 million to make, benefited from a sleek marketing campaign that attracted a mostly older audience (65% 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 million over the weekend.
Directed by Brett Ratner, the film -- which had a $100-million budget -- follows the Greek 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. Kellen Lutz played the hero in "The Legend of Hercules," which flopped when it was released in January (it cost about $70 million and grossed $8.6 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 mark with a $16.4-million take that pushed the sequel's cumulative total to $172.1 million. Universal's "The Purge: Anarchy" added $9.8 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 $9.3 million.
A number of limited releases also had notable weekends.
"A Most Wanted Man," which features the final performance of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, grossed $2.7 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 more than $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%. And in a season that has included plenty of popcorn blockbusters, from intergalactic robots ("Transformers: Age of Extinction") to Spider-Man to a Tom Cruise tentpole ("Edge of Tomorrow") to genetically evolved primates ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), no film has been able to cross $300 million.