Marvel/Disney's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" vacuumed up nearly 60% of the Top 10 gross of $157 million. Recent openers "Noah" (Paramount) and "Divergent" (Lionsgate) took powerful body blows and fell quickly from their modest starts. "Captain America"'s strong number distorts the overall box office performance, which is otherwise showing signs of weakness (except for two strong indie performers in the Top Five, "God's Not Dead" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel").
The Top Ten take is over $30 million ahead of last year. For the year, box office is up over 6% from 2013 so far. A solid but not spectacular performance, given that last year's first third was bleak overall.
The limited debuts were led by A24's "Under the Skin," starring "Captain America" costar Scarlett Johansson. More details on that and other specialized films in Arthouse Audit.
1. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (Buena Vista) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 69
$96,200,000 in 3,938 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $24,429; Cumulative: $96,200,000
With the help of higher ticket prices (including 40% of customers buying 3D and IMAX seats, above-average but below "Gravity"), the second Marvel "Captain America" film sets the new record for top April opener (edging the non-3D "Fast Five" in 2011). This marks the best first weekend since "Catching Fire" last November. More impressively, this also bests Marvel's most recent film "Thor: The Dark World" (also in November, just under $86 million) and is almost 50% ahead of the previous "Captain America" film. Add on its international performance (which got an early start in several territories), and the gross early in its run is already over $200 million.
Also encouraging is its Saturday performance. This grossed $10 million for its Thursday night shows, then $27 on Friday before rising to almost $35 yesterday (industry practice is to combine the first day and a half into one figure). The demographics for the film -- 57% of the audience is over 25, once again showing how older moviegoers are continuing to keep box office healthy, even for a film that would seem to have big younger appeal -- help explain the uptick (Saturday tends to draw an older crowd).
Summer has not yet arrived, and this early date reminds that studios are showing confidence about expanding the range of dates for high budget projects (in this case $170 million). "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" were both May releases. Their higher initial grosses had more to do with keen anticipation for those Marvel titles than their later dates. Thus "The Winter Solider" now faces less competition and can take advantage of school holidays as well as positive audience response.
Marvel leader Kevin Feige took a chance turning over the directorial reins to brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, whose previous efforts include "You, Me and Dupree," which got to $75 million. Marvel buttressed them with the Marvel screenwriting team Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley (whose past hits include three "Narnia" films, the first "Captain America" and the last "Thor"). Marvel regular Chris Evans ("Fantastic Four") was joined by Scarlett Johansson (she also opened in the specialized "Under the Skin" this weekend) and, in a live-action supporting role for the first time in a half-century, Robert Redford (at the peak of his draw, both "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting" grossed the equivalent of over $500 million domestic).
What comes next: The second weekend will tell much more about how far above $200 million this gets. It should be an easy half-billion + worldwide hit (likely by some margin) and could compete for top film of 2014.