Captain America: The Winter Soldier Heats Up Box Office

The calendar may say it is spring but the North American box office acted like it was summertime as the latest Marvel/Disney blockbuster Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuted Thursday night to set a record for highest opening in the month of April. Not only did nothing else come close, the critically-acclaimed superhero film earned more than the next twenty films combined. With such a big opening, the box office got a healthy 26% boost over both last week and last year at this time.

2012’s The Avengers is the movie that keeps on giving for Marvel Studios and Disney. Each of the “Phase Two” films that have come after the Joss Whedon blockbuster has seen their box office fortunes rise significantly over their previous installments. Iron Man 3 earned nearly $100 million more in domestic sales than its 2010 predecessor. Last year’s Thor: The Dark World opened 40% higher than the 2011 original and now Captain America: The Winter Soldier has arrived on 3,938 screens to open roughly 50% higher than its 2011 counterpart.

The $96.2 million earned this weekend in North America sets a new record for an April opening, easily surpassing the $86 million earned by Fast Five back in 2011. Winter Soldier opened on Thursday night with $10.2 million, which was included in the $37 million reported total for Friday. Saturday’s gross was $34.6 million while Sunday is being estimated at $24.5 million. Reviews for the Anthony and Joe Russo-directed action epic were quite strong (89% Approval Rating on Rotten Tomatoes); with many even going as far as saying that this film is the best Marvel Studios feature to date.

Ticket buyers were also digging the latest Cap adventure, giving the movie an “A” rating on CinemaScore. With no competition on the horizon until May 2’s arrival of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America should have no problem heading to a final haul between $250-300 million, which would be a sizable 50-70% increase over 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. The new film should also pass the previous Cap flick’s $176 million domestic overall gross by next Sunday. The third installment of the Captain America series is due on May 6, 2016 opposite Warner’s Superman vs. Batman (my money is on Cap). Foreign markets also love the latest Marvel adventure. After one week of release The Winter Soldier has earned a spectacular $207 million, which is $14 million more than what the first movie earned during its entire overseas run.

After bowing solidly last weekend, Paramount’s Noah ran into choppy waters in its sophomore session and saw its fortunes sink by 61%. Lukewarm word-of-mouth and the arrival of Captain America helped knock the Darren Aronofsky feature down to second place and a $17 million estimated take on 3,571 screens. To date, the Russell Crowe drama has earned $72.3 million and should float its way to $90-95 million. Foreign markets have contributed $106 million thus far.

Lionsgate’s Divergent eased 49% in its third round on 3,631 screens to earn $13 million. The domestic total stands at $114 million and could make its way to $130 million. Foreign markets have contributed $22 million.

Freestyle’s God’s Not Dead showed it had plenty of life left in it in fourth place. The religious-themed drama added 580 theaters to bring its screen count up to 1,758 theaters where it earned $7.7 million. Off a mere 12% (the best hold in the top ten), God’s Not Dead has banked a solid $32.5 million.

Fox Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel finally made it into the top five following a month of a steady, successful platform run. The Wes Anderson comedy added 286 theaters in its fifth weekend to bring its total to $33.3 million. The film is on track to surpass the $51 million generated by 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums to become Anderson’s highest grossing film to date. The foreign total for the film currently stands at $54.3 million.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Muppets Most Wanted (Disney) $6.3 million (-44%); $42.1 million

7. Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Fox) $5.3 million (-42%); $102.2 million

8. Sabotage (Open Road Films) $1.9 million (-64%); $8.7 million

9. Need for Speed (Disney) $1.836 million (-57%); $40.8 million

10. Non-Stop (Universal) $1.827 million (-54%); $88.1 million

Next weekend sees the arrival of Draft Day, Oculus and Rio 2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier should have no problem staying put in the number one spot while Rio 2 should place second.

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