By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood April 14, 2014 at 2:41AM
All signs on Saturday pointed to "Rio 2" (Blue Sky/Twentieth Century Fox) easily claiming the top spot this weekend. The animated sequel led the Friday box office, and kid-oriented films normally pop above average for the rest of the weekend. So it looked like it would easily top the second weekend for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (Marvel/Buena Vista). But something changed. Was it the fine weekend weather in the eastern half of the country? Word of mouth? In any case the lead positions reversed when the weekend numbers came in.
Two films over $39 million brought in a Top 10 total of around $136 million, over $30 million better than last year, with the year to date about $285 million (7%) more than last year. The improvement came despite the modest or less take of two other new releases (Relativity's horror entry "Oculus" and Lionsgate sports drama "Draft Day"). Note: three of the top studios --Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.-- have no films among the top ten box office leaders, which makes the year's uptick even more impressive.
1. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (Buena Vista) Week 2 - Last weekend #1
$41,398,000 (-56%) in 3,938 theaters (no change); PSA: $10,518,000; Cumulative: $159,006,000
Surprisingly retaining the top spot, Marvel's latest event film fell at the normal level for similar films (last weekend, its $10 million Thursday was counted) and, combined with international figures, the worldwide gross is already up to some $500 million.
The hold is better than the first "Captain America," which fell $61%, grossed a much lower $25.5 million and ranked #2. The total domestic gross to date is already approaching the original (it should surpass that film's $174 million by next weekend). This follow-up held slightly better than Marvel's last sequel, "Thor: the Dark World," and after 10 days in release is $14 million better. All good.
What comes next: This hold plus the holidays ahead suggest this should easily pass $250 million and could even approach $300 domestic.
2. "Rio 2" (Twentieth Century Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 50
$39,000,000 in 3,948 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $9,878; Cumulative: $39,000,000
Opening at the same gross as the first "Rio" is a bit disappointing -- top-performing animated films often see their sequels soar higher initially (if not always long-term). "Despicable Me 2" last summer was 50% better its first weekend than its predecessor. The concern comes from its Saturday take. "Rio" last time grossed $7 million more its second day than Friday; this time, Friday was better, and Saturday only up $3 million. (In both cases, it opened on the Friday a week ahead of Easter). An early beautiful spring weekend day in much of the country might have had a negative impact.
With animated films remaining one of the surest bets out there, any sign of weakness is a concern for more than just Fox. Still, it is second to "The Lego Movie" this year among genre films (though $30 million less) and awaits the biggest week of school vacation positioned as the prime family film, so expect the grosses to accumulate during the weekdays.
Through Thursday, early international openings in some territories had already taken in $55 million. Foreign brought in 70% of the last film's $484 million total, which could yet end up being around the level this entry reaches. With a fairly low budget for a high end cartoon film ($105 million), despite the slightly under expectations performance, this still should end up a solid hit.
Last year's Easter-placement "The Croods" opened a bit better at $43 million and ended up at a healthy $187 million for its domestic take. It, like "Rio 2," had an initial A Cinemascore, though it had a much better 63% Saturday increase,
What comes next: Expect the weekdays to add another quick $20 million.