"Guardians," which also features Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel voicing the computer-generated characters Rocket Raccoon and Groot, was originally considered a risky proposition for Marvel and "Guardians" distributor Walt Disney Co. because it features more obscure characters from the Marvel universe and is set almost entirely in outer space.
Despite any apprehension, Marvel was betting on "Guardians," written and directed by "Slither" filmmaker James Gunn, to be a blockbuster. The studio announced at Comic-Con in San Diego last month that a sequel is already set for release in 2017. Marvel's next films are the follow-up "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Ant-Man" starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Both movies are coming in 2015.
Marvel comic book adaptations have dominated 2014 with Sony Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," 20th Century Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and Marvel Studios' "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" each arriving in first place at the box office on their respective opening weekends.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, believes Marvel is unstoppable at this point.
"This is a brand that transcends any character within their universe," he said. "The mere mention of the name Marvel is enough to get people into the movie theater. That's somewhat rare. Pixar obviously has a similar cachet, but for Marvel to have four films this year open with over $90 million is amazing. It's unprecedented success."
Disney noted that "Guardians" hauled in an additional $66.4 million from 42 international territories, including Russia, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and the United Kingdom, making it the first-place film overseas. "Guardians" is scheduled to land in such markets as Australia, India and Columbia next weekend.
In a distant second place at the North American box office, "Lucy," starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman with mind-bending powers, nabbed $18.3 million in its second weekend, bringing the Universal Pictures release's domestic total to $80 million.
Meanwhile, Universal's James Brown biopic "Get on Up" featuring Chadwick Boseman as the soulful singer opened in third place with $14 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.