Scarlett Johansson in First Action-Starring Role ‘Lucy’ Is Poised to Kick Box-Office Butt

Universal’s Luc Besson thriller looks like a sleeper hit and is tracking for a $40 million opening on July 25

“Lucy,” the Scarlett Johansson sci-fi action movie, is shaping up as a sleeper hit at the summer box office ahead of its July 25 opening.

Written and directed by veteran Luc Besson, Universal’s “Lucy” stars Johansson as a woman forced to work as a drug mule who gains superhuman brain power and kicks considerable bad-guy butt after the drug seeps into her system. Morgan Freeman co-stars.

Tracking suggests an opening in the $40 million range, or roughly what it cost to make. The studio wasn’t talking Thursday, particularly since it’s opening “The Purge: Anarchy” this weekend.

Watch video: Scarlett Johansson Drives Like a Very Calm Maniac Through the Streets of Paris in ‘Lucy’ Clip

Johansson has appeared as the Black Widow in three Marvel movies, so she’s experienced box-office success. But “Lucy” is on track to be by far the biggest opening for a movie in which she’s played a lead, well ahead of 2006’s “The Prestige” or 2005’s “The Island.”

It also will easily be the biggest opening ever as a director for Besson, who’s been on the action movie scene since “La Femme Nikita” in 1991. He’s recently focused on producing via his EuropaCorp film company, and wrote and produced Liam Neeson‘s “Taken” movies.

“Lucy” stands to benefit from Johansson’s increasing action star credibility, which has gotten a big boost from her roles as the Black Widow in Marvel’s “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Johansson’s pregnancy with fiancé Romain Dauriac is drawing considerable media coverage and that isn’t hurting, either.

Summer’s typically a slow time for female-led movies, and “Lucy” looks like it is positioned to capitalize on that void. Universal moved the release date up from Aug. 8 to July 25 a couple of months ago.

The building buzz around “Lucy” isn’t going to help “Hercules,” the Dwayne Johnson sword-and-sandals saga directed by Brett Ratner from Paramount that will open against it. The Michael Douglas-Diane Keaton comedy “And So It Goes” also opens on July 25.