Disney ran another Marvel movie up the flagpole yesterday, and the entirety of North America saluted as Captain America: Winter Soldier claimed the biggest single day of April box office in movie history. The sequel to the popular Captain America, as well as de facto sequel to The Avengers, accomplished what ABC’s Agents of SHIELD has yet to do. It introduced a massive wave of new viewers to the inner workings of SHIELD. In the process, Winter Soldier has positioned itself to become the most popular Marvel movie to date that did not feature Iron Man as the central selling point. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a blockbuster.
Friday Numbers Analysis
By David Mumpower
April 5, 2014
Consider this movie mission accomplished for Disney. After the Mouse House purchased Marvel Pictures, the execs at the two companies boldly embarked on a historically unprecedented plan. They would build up to an Avengers movie by releasing individual movies starring the three main superheroes. The goal all along was to level up the secondary characters such as Thor and Captain America via the star power of Iron Man. At the time, the decision seemed risky. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like a masterstroke of tentpole planning.
Thor: The Dark World was the first Avenger elevated by the popularity of The Avengers as the sequel opened $20 million higher than its predecessor. Ultimately, Thor 2 garnered $184 million more in global revenue than the first film. It was definitely not as dramatic an increase as Iron Man 3 managed compared to Iron Man 2 ($589 million in growth, almost double), yet it demonstrated that the secondary character expansion had succeeded. The next test was scheduled for this week.
Captain America: The First Avenger was a solid hit with $25.7 million on its first day and $65.1 million over its debut weekend. Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossed 44% more on Friday, attaining a record-setting $37 million. I should note that $10.2 million of that tally was accrued on Thursday, yet The Winter Soldier still surpassed The First Avenger even without that bonus revenue. Also, the first movie claimed $4 million of its own on Thursday. With yesterday’s box office, there can be no debate on the point. All Avengers superheroes are much more popular now than they were at this point two years ago.
Bluntly, there is no reason whatsoever to question the drawing power of Captain America, either. At the moment, he is the third most popular superhero in the world, having undeniably surpassed Thor, Superman and Wolverine. Only Iron Man and his DC Comics twin, Batman, are clearly more popular box office draws right now. That is how successful Disney and Marvel’s universe-building stratagem has been, at least with regards to movies. The shaky television ratings of Agents of SHIELD remain the primary blemish on the Marvel resume. The Winter Soldier’s appeal is not a local phenomenon, either. Before it was ever released domestically, it had already tallied $75 million overseas. Yes, the second Captain America movie should have already grossed more than its $175 million domestic budget by the end of its first weekend in North America.
Why are audiences so captivated by Captain America: The Winter Soldier? It offers something new in the Marvel universe, political intrigue. It also provides something that elevates the franchise, the presence of screen legend Robert Redford. Finally, the movie delivers something that neither of the two most recent blockbusters, Divergent and Noah, could claim. It is the first true action blockbuster of 2014, and its commercials did a wonderful job in enticing customers. The Super Bowl commercial featuring the Winter Soldier annihilating the streets of Washington D.C. is exactly the sort of money shot that differentiates the highest quality blockbusters from run-of-the-mill releases.
With a story of terrorism, brainwashing and betrayal, The Winter Soldier provides the storyline that always works: mentor vs. protégé. Do not be surprised if the universality of The Winter Soldier carries it to twice the box office of The First Avenger. Unlike that title, the sequel provides much more global appeal. With regards to this weekend, the movie’s upside is unlikely to carry it over $100 million. It effectively earned $26.8 million yesterday after the $10.2 million in Thursday sneaks. The First Avenger possessed a 2.8 multiplier on opening weekend after sneaks were removed. Presuming sellouts, 3D ticket price increases and the like, I expect a 3.1 multiplier. That would be a $93.3 million opening weekend, making this the rarest of rare $90 million opener. Twenty-eight movies have grossed north of $100 million on opening weekend. Only five Friday releases have grossed between $90 and $99 million. Read into that what you will.
The news is as expected for last weekend’s major release, Noah. After debuting with $15.2 million last Friday, it fell 68% to $4.9 million yesterday. Please do not even pretend to be surprised. The $125 million production currently has a domestic total of $60.2 million after eight days in theaters. With another $51 million overseas, Noah is going to be a winner. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Divergent. The would-be teen tentpole fell another 49% to $8.1 million to $4.2 million yesterday. The $85 million production is also already in the black with $105.2 million, but if I were in charge of Lionsgate, I would be strongly reconsidering the viability of a sequel. Finally, Sabotage somehow managed to fall 69% yesterday despite having a lousy day last Friday. With only $568,233 yesterday and $7.4 million total, this pointless movie exercise is already finished theatrically. It is a total failure for all involved.