LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Guardians Of The Galaxy, Walt Disney Co's offbeat space adventure featuring extraterrestrial misfits and a talking raccoon, made US$94 million (S$117 million) in ticket sales this weekend, setting a record for an August film opening.
The film's strong beginning, however, is not likely to jumpstart a lacklustre summer box office season.
The 3D movie, which stars lesser-known characters in Disney's Marvel comic book universe, added US$66.4 million from international markets, for a global debut of US$160.4 million, Disney said on Sunday.
Guardians outgunned last weekend's leader, the science-fiction thriller Lucy that collected another US$18.3 million in sales at domestic theatres, according to estimates from Rentrak.
Lucy stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman with a super-powered brain.
Get On Up, a biography of the soul singer James Brown, was third with US$14 million in its first weekend in theatres.
Guardians stars an ensemble cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt. After positive reviews, the film was the year's biggest Thursday night opening with US$11.2 million in sales starting with 7pm shows.
Even before the film's opening, Walt Disney said it was planning a sequel for release in July 2017.
Head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios Dave Hollis attributed the strong performance of Guardians to a combination of momentum started by Transformers: Age Of Extinction in June, skillful marketing, and strong reviews. "It starts with a great movie, and certainly the marketing was inspired," Hollis said.
Disney had marketed the film's lighter moments in trailers and commercials, including a machinegun-firing raccoon, to expand its popularity beyond traditional Marvel movie fans.
The movie features a soundtrack of music from the 1970s, including the songs Hooked On A Feeling and Spirit In The Sky.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction, another Marvel film, just passed US$1 billion in global box office returns, according to Paramount Pictures.
Guardians performance, which beat Hollywood forecasts of a US$65 million to US$80 million opening, are not likely to energise the summer box office, however, as ticket sales are currently running 18 per cent behind last year, according to Rentrak.
"It doesn't end it but it's certainly a step in the right direction," said Rentrak's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian about the slump.
It only gave the overall summer box office a 2 per cent lift, he said.
Hercules, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the legendary muscle man, was fourth for the weekend with US$10.7 million.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes was fifth with US$8.7 million. The film has totalled more than US$189.3 million in sales in US and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak.
Lucy and Get On Up were released by Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.
Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox, distributed Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Hercules and Transformers: Age Of Extinction were released by Paramount Pictures, a Viacom unit.