'The Other Woman'
'The Other Woman'

Just after Easter holiday playtime, and right ahead of the first of the summer juggernauts, comes this late April weekend. It was guaranteed to be something of a breather after a strong 2014 so far -- and ahead, as Sony "The Amazing Spider Man 2" adds the US to its territories next weekend after already scoring overseas success.

Even so, the Top Ten total ($96 million) still managed to come in over 20% better than last year ($78 million) though the three-day take was the lowest this year since late February. Led by "The Other Woman" (20th Century Fox), a rare female-dominated studio release, the performance overall was enhanced by the strong holdovers ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Heaven Is for Real," "Rio 2,") behind it, benefiting from the lack of any other stronger opener (both "Brick Mansions" and "The Quiet Ones" failed to take in over $10 million).

The first third of 2014 will come in just under 10% of a very weak start to 2013. But "Iron Man 3" started at $174 million its opening weekend, and the parade of strong performers continued nonstop for over three months, setting a high standard that this year might not be able to match.

1. The Other Woman (20th Century Fox) - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: D; Metacritic: 39

$24,700,000 in 3,205 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $7,707; Cumulative: $24,700,000

Incredibly, this is the first older-skewing film with a mainly female cast to hit number one since "The Help" nearly three years ago. ("The Heat" last year managed to reach nearly $160 million without getting to the top spot). Pent-up demand likely accounts for a good part of its initial success, as women more than ever, with the decline of the young male demo, constitute a majority of domestic ticket buyers (not necessarily the case worldwide). So with a heavily promoted comedy with a legitimate star (Cameron Diaz) leading the cast and less competitive release date, this result shouldn't surprise, but should indeed be noted for its achievement.

'The Other Woman'
'The Other Woman'

But how impressive is this? And more importantly, is it a game-changer or just an anomaly? Hard to say for sure, but from a studio perspective, the optics are mixed. The reported production budget of $40 million is modest by current standards, but marketing costs likely hike this up to at least $75 million in upfront expense. With a likely domestic total of $75 million or under, this means that international play will need to produce something similar to propel this into profit (other ancillary revenue, of course, will be added). Because female-centered comedies normally, unlike most studio films, gross less overseas, there is no guarantee of that happening. But a strong early opening in Australia last week, which came close to the initial success of "Spider-Man 2," does show real potential ahead of expectations, as does the stateside opening.

The first bit of concern comes from Saturday's minor jump from Friday (up only 4%, when often women turn out in larger numbers). Four recent films comparable in appeal -- along with "The Help," three Melissa McCarthy starrers ("Bridesmaids," "Identity Thief" and "The Heat") -- all had much better increases on their first Saturdays to varying degrees. "The Other Woman"'s Thursday night numbers, however, were included with Friday, which mitigates the negativity. Although the reviews for "The Other Woman" were weak (to be generous), most romantic comedies with female leads tend to lack critical favor. The Cinemascore is on the mixed/positive side, but "Bridesmaids" only got a B+ before becoming a word-of-mouth smash. More significantly, the opening falls far below the two recent, less relationship-oriented Melissa McCarthy hits, both of which opened above $34 million, with "The Heat" clearly being aided by Sandra Bullock.

With that context in mind, this still is a $24 million+ number one opener with the potential for profit, which should be enough to get other similar projects attention, particularly if equal or bigger names are attached. "The Other Woman" is the first produced script from writer Melissa Stack, and an original one at that, likely making this even more of an anomaly. Single-billed producer Julie Yorn may not be familiar by name, but she is already a veteran, with "We Bought a Zoo," "Unstoppable" and "Bride Wars" among films in her past slate. Cameron Diaz, meanwhile, showed leading-lady strength in the past, with the two "Charlie's Angels" films and "Bad Teacher" all opening at over $30 million. For director Nick Cassavetes, this is the biggest opening (although it likely won't surpass the total gross of his biggest hit "The Notebook") of his career, and a nice comeback after his most recent film, "Yellow," failed to attract distribution following its 2012 TIFF premiere.

What comes next: The second weekend hold and foreign returns are going to be critical in determining whether this becomes a clear success. Credit 20th Century Fox in taking a risk and seeing a solid initial positive response.

Chris Evans in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
Chris Evans in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Buena Vista) Week 4 - Last weekend #1

$16,048,000 (-37%) in 3,620 theaters (-205); PSA: $4,433; Cumulative: $224,888,000

A very strong 65% Saturday jump helped make the already-rich Marvel richer, as the year's biggest overall hit so far continues to thrive both domestically and worldwide, even if it was dethroned after three weeks in the top spot. The total take so far is at $645 million (although the initial foreign weeks for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" outdid many comparable earlier "America" openings), with the race for overall lead between these two superheroes yet to be determined. In any event, both are thriving, with "Captain America" holding strong and leaving no doubt that Marvel can do little wrong at the moment.

What comes next: Disney clearly made the smart move in getting their entry open early, even if it meant conceding some early summer playtime. They've set the standard for the season.