Weekend Box Office: ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Breaks August Opening Record By Almost $25 Million

Yeah, so Disney/Marvel had a pretty good weekend. Guardians of the Galaxy‘s $94 million domestic gross ($160.4 million worldwide) broke the $69.3 million August opening record set by the Bourne Ultimatum back in 2007, reversed the downward trend in the box office (up 40% from this weekend last year), and surprised all those who worried that it was too weird or too niche to do big business. It was only a shade off Captain America 2’s $95 million opening and (gah) Transformer’s: Age of Extinction‘s best-of-the-year $100 million debut.

The film played 56% male and 55% over 25 years old. Among under-18 year olds (24%) and 25-34 year olds (21%), it earned an A+ Cinemascore while earning straight-As across other age-related demographics. It also earned $11.7m in IMAX alone while playing 45% overall in 3D. [Forbes]

Guardians of the Galaxy wound up having a ton of appeal with women: exit polling indicated that the audience was 44 percent female, which is the biggest share ever for a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie (the previous high was 40 percent for The Avengers). [BoxOfficeMojo]

And of course, it was actually good and is tracking 93% on RottenTomatoes, so now we get to see how much that actually matters for the box office. Whether it becomes Transformers ($100 million opening, $241 million total, $1 billion worldwide) or Godzilla ($93 million opening, $199.9 million total, $507 million worldwide) or Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6 million opening, $202 million total, $707.8 million worldwide). For what it’s worth, most of Transformers‘ huge gross (76%) came from overseas, where Guardians isn’t doing as well as Thor, on average.

All in all, it should be good news for people who like good movies. It’s not as if anything was going to stop studios from trying to make more Transformers movies, but the good news from Guardians is that takeaway seems to be that building a strong brand through consistently quality products can be as important as the normal squawking about built-in audiences, brand recognition, four quadrant potential and blah blah blah. No one but the comic book die hards knew what “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a year ago, but it looked good, came from a brand (Marvel) generally known for doing good stuff, and was actually pretty good. I like to imagine a studio exec somewhere pointing to a single word drawn on a white board somewhere – “…GOOD?” as his peers looked confusedly at each other scratching their heads.

People are throwing around the Pixar comparison with Marvel, which is a double-edged sword, as Disney seems to have ruined Pixar and now they own Marvel. But maybe they’ll be better this time?? Something to hope for, anyway. In the meantime, this week brings us more crap (or what looks suspiciously like crap) with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Into the Storm, The Hundred-Foot Journey, and Step Up: All In opening. We’re now officially in the late-Summer doldrums, with nothing much decent looking opening until the awards-bait season starts in October.

Some day studios will learn that competing with every other awards movie for a not-that-important-to-begin-with awards season bump makes less sense than releasing a decent movie on one of the many, many other weekends where nothing good is out and it can shine, but it obviously hasn’t happened yet. The most powerful box office trend, as always, is inertia.