Marvel Studios’ Guardians Of The Galaxy stormed the North American box office, soaring to number one on an estimated $94m through Buena Vista that scored the biggest August debut and the third biggest of the year-to-date.

James Gunn’s tongue-in-cheek adventure sci-fi has earned mostly glowing reviews but there was nothing lighthearted about the numbers, which lifted summer 2014 out of the doldrums and helped the top 12 climb 29% against the same session in 2013 and better last weekend by some 26%.

Guardians Of The Galaxy opened in 4,080 theatres, setting a formidable $23,039 average. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Lee Pace star in the film, which generated $160.4m worldwide when combined with the $66.4m international result. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide voices.

Imax delivered $17m around the world, beating the previous August record of $5.9m set by Elysium in 2013. In another new August mark, the North American tally came to $11.7m from 354 screens.

EuropaCorp’s thriller Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson slipped to second place through Universal on $18.3m for $79.6m – solid progress for the $40m production.

Universal’s James Brown biopic Get On Up starring an acclaimed performance by Chadwick Boseman debuted at number three on $14m from 2,468 theatres.

Hercules ranks fourth on $52.3m through Universal and is struggling after two sessions, given the $100m production cost.

Clavius Entertainment’s Rob Reiner drama And So It Goes starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton fell one place to number nine and has grossed $10.5m after two sessions. A Most Wanted Man held firm at number 10 and has amassed $7.1m through Roadside Attractions after two.

Meanwhile Richard Linklater’s beloved Boyhood continues to perform strongly. The coming-of-age drama climbed three places to number 11 in its fourth weekend and brought in a mighty $2.5m for $7.6m after expanding by 204 to 311 sites.

Fox Searchlight opened its Sundance acquisition Calvary in four sites for a terrific $72,800, which translates into an $18,200 average.

Next weekend’s wide releases are: Participant Media’s drama The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren through Buena Vista; Warner Bros/New Line’s thriller Into The Storm; Paramount’s action-adventure Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and Lionsgate/Summit’s dance drama Step Up All In.

Estimated Top 10 North America Aug 1-3 2014
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Guardians Of The Galaxy (Buena Vista/Marvel) WDSMPI $94m –

2 (1) Lucy (Universal) UPI $18.3m $79.6m

3 (-) Get On Up (Universal) UPI $14m –

4 (2) Hercules (Paramount-MGM) PPI $10.7m $52.3m

5 (3) Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (Fox) Fox International $8.7m $189.3m

6 (5) Planes: Fire & Rescue (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $6.4m $47.6m

7 (4) The Purge: Anarchy (Universal) UPI $5.6m $62.9m

8 (6) Sex Tape (Sony) SPRI $3.6m $33.9m

9 (8) And So It Goes (Clarius Entertainment) Foresight Unlimited $3.34m $10.5m

10 (10) A Most Wanted Man (Roadside Attractions) FilmNation $3.32m $7.1m