Box Office: Record Opening for Captain America

Marvel magic worked wonders again as the super hero sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to record business while pulverizing the competition in the process. The Disney release debuted to a gigantic $96.2M, according to estimates, setting a new April opening weekend record beating the $86.2M of 2011's Fast Five. Factor out three years of ticket price increases and 3D surcharges and the audience sizes were about the same.

Still, Winter Soldier delivered summer-level grosses in early April proving that the right event films can attract monster business at any time of year. Playing in 3,938 locations, the new Steve Rogers film averaged a stellar $24,429 and was the biggest debut of 2014 by far. The three-day take was an encouraging 48% better than the $65.1M of its 2011 predecessor and 12% higher than the $85.7M of recent Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World from November. Winter Soldier benefitted from fans liking the first Captain America film and loving The Avengers plus the new chapter had expanded roles from franchise regulars Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson adding to the starpower.

Reviews were very strong and audiences agreed with critics giving it a solid A grade from CinemaScore. Soldier skewed heavily male (64%) and played older as 57% were over 25. 40% of the gross came from 3D formats which was a bit higher than the 38% for the last Cap pic. 346 IMAX screens delivered a whopping $9.6M, or 10% of the gross.

Friday kicked off with $37M including $10.2M from Thursday night shows starting at 8pm. Saturday dipped 7% to $34.6M while Sunday is estimated to fall by 29% to $24.5M. The last Thor - which also started with 8pm Thursday night previews - played a bit differently with Saturday inching up 1% and Sunday dropping by 32%. Reaching $225M domestic is quite possible for the new Captain America.

Overseas results were fantastic as well with Winter Soldier's international cume already surpassing that of its predecessor after less than two weeks of play. The super soldier grossed a towering $107.1M from overseas markets this weekend led by a gargantuan debut in China of $39.2M. That was a new Marvel record in that lucrative territory beating Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. Chris Evans and company traveled to Beijing for a glitzy fan event and press conference to hype up their product there.

The new Captain America has now amassed $207.1M internationally and sits at a hefty $303.3M worldwide with plenty of cash still to come as key markets Japan and Brazil have yet to open. Look for global grosses to eventually surpass $700M on this tentpole which cost roughly $175M to produce.

Last week's leader Noah fell sharply in its second weekend grossing an estimated $17M, down a hefty 61%. Mixed word-of-mouth and competition from a new action tentpole both contributed to the large decline. Paramount's Russell Crowe starrer has now collected $72.3M from North America on its way to a possible $110M domestic final. Overseas love has been stronger as Noah banked an estimated $45.6M this weekend from 45 markets lifting the overseas tally to $106.2M and the global gross to $178.5M. Brazil led the new openers with a huge $8.5M (fourth best debut in history) while Russia leads the holdovers with $26.6M to date.

Down 49% in its third round was the sci-fi flick Divergent with an estimated $13M boosting Lionsgate's cume to $114M. Faith-based hit God's Not Dead expanded again in its third weekend and grossed an estimated $7.7M, off just 12%, for a $32.5M sum for Freestyle.

The Wes Anderson winner The Grand Budapest Hotel continued its red hot roll-out expanding another round and capturing an estimated $6.3M. Off 26%, the Fox Searchlight release has grossed $33.4M and is on its way to topping $55M.

Two kidpics followed with good holds countering the arrival of the gun-heavy super hero tentpole which parents of younger children would avoid. Disney's Muppets Most Wanted dipped 44% to an estimated $6.3M while the DreamWorks toon Mr. Peabody & Sherman fell 42% to an estimated $5.3M while joining the century club. Cumes to date are $42.1M and $102.2M, respectively.

A trio of action titles rounded out the top ten with just under $2M a piece. Arnold Schwarzenegger's insta-flop Sabotage tumbled 64% from its weak debut to an estimated $1.9M and poor $8.8M total for Open Road. Need for Speed fell 57% to an estimated $1.8M and has banked a disappointing $40.8M to date. Liam Neeson's hit Non-Stop spent its sixth round in the top ten with an estimated $1.8M as well, off 55%. Universal's cume is a solid $88.1M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $157.4M which was up 26% from last year when Evil Dead opened at number one with $25.8M; and up 36% from 2012 when The Hunger Games remained on top for a third weekend with $33.1M.

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