The galaxy is in safe hands.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel's latest addition to its superhero canon, invaded Hollywood this weekend with the biggest debut on record for an August movie.
Guardians rounded up $94 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.
The debut shattered the record for a movie opening in August, previously held by Matt Damon's The Bourne Ultimatum, which bowed to $69 million in 2007.
Analysts expected a No. 1 opening of at least $70 million, but the debut still surprised because Guardians is a new franchise.
"None of the characters involved in this movie are considered seminal to the Marvel universe in the way that Captain America, Thor, The Hulk and Iron Man are," says David Mumpower, analyst for Box Office Prophets.
"Simply stated, the Marvel brand has become for Disney what the Pixar brand had been through 2010," Mumpower says. "Consumer trust in the Marvel product is total. Even virtually unknown characters can still anchor a blockbuster debut."
Critics and fans were ready for an original comic-book team. The movie earned a thumbs-up from 92% of the nation's critics, says Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. And moviegoers gave it a collective A, says online pollsters CinemaScore.
Mumpower notes that Guardians flourished without the 'Avengers bump,' the box office surge that's boosted ticket sales for every character that appeared in the 2012 all-star superhero team.
"The Avengers bump we have been tracking for a while now is no longer exclusive to Avengers characters," Mumpower says. "A superhero space team of similar composition has been accepted by consumers as a worthy Avengers substitute while they wait for Age of Ultron," the Avengers sequel coming next year.
Lucy, Scarlett Johansson's thriller, took second place with $18.3 million.
Get On Up, the James Brown biopic, took third place with $14 million, meeting most expectations. It earned solid scores from fans and critics, scoring an A from moviegoers and a recommendation from 77% of reviewers.
The swords-and-sandals epic Hercules claimed fourth with $10.7 million, followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with $8.7 million.
Final figures are due Monday.