When it comes to developing female action stars, Hollywood’s patchy track record suggests studios are easily discouraged. Angelina Jolie, who starred in two Tomb Raider films, Wanted and Salt, has long been viewed as pretty much the only bankable female action star in town. But Halle Berry, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Garner have been less fortunate, with their respective vehicles – Catwoman, Aeon Flux and Elektra – branded disappointments. Milla Jovovich is considered reliable box-office only in the Resident Evil movies. Hollywood’s reverse strategy – taking a woman with action bona fides and teaching her to act – has yet to yield a star as big as the male equivalent, Dwayne Johnson: Gina Carano has been little seen since Haywire, and Ronda Rousey perhaps didn’t get the major launch envisaged from The Expendables 3.
All of the above means that very close attention is being paid to the performance of Lucy, which gives Scarlett Johansson her first big action lead role following supporting turns as Black Widow in Avengers Assemble and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And the news is very good for Johansson and everyone in Hollywood invested in building a new female action star to place alongside Jolie.
Luc Besson‘s Lucy has already kicked a fair amount of box-office ass in the US ($114m – £69m – so far) and is performing well in France, Germany and Australia. Now it opens in the UK with a muscular £3.08m – £4.17m, if takings on bank holiday Monday are included – easily the biggest debut for a film top-lined by Johansson (not that there have been too many of those). Three other major new movies were released on 300-plus screens at the weekend, and none of them made it past £700,000 over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Having fallen 46% the previous weekend, The Inbetweeners 2 drops another 45% on its third weekend of play, taking the 19-day tally to £27.63m. The original Inbetweeners movie stood at £34.99m at the same stage of its run, so the sequel – released a week earlier in the calendar year than the original – is running 21% behind the pace of its predecessor. The Inbetweeners 2 will benefit from those extra days of play before teens return to schools and colleges. The film has now overtaken X-Men: Days of Future Past to become the second-biggest hit of the summer, behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (£30.99m). Apes is the only 2014 summer hit so far to crack £30m, unlike last year, when Despicable Me 2 (£47.44m), Iron Man 3 (£36.97m) and Monsters University (£30.64m) all broke that mark. Man of Steel (£29.95m) came very close.