Weekend Wrap-Up

Captain America: A Strong Spring Solider at the Box Office

By John Hamann

April 6, 2014

Imagine what he would have to use if he lived in Beijing.

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What do you do when the last three films in your franchise have grossed $3.4 billion at the box office? You release a critically-acclaimed, buzz-worthy effort for your weakest financial link to your cinematic universe, Captain America. Then, you sit back and watch him hit a home run in April. Marvel, you never cease to amaze me.

Pow! Marvel Studios is back this weekend with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film that appears to be the link between Marvel’s Avengers and their Avengers: Age of Ultron. Like usual, glowing reviews met another Marvel release this weekend, as the studio continues to combine strong film-making (and maybe more important, solid writing) with a cinematic universe that crosses moviegoer demographics and keeps fans and even high-level observers eager for more (panting may be more appropriate). Captain America: The Winter Soldier turned an 89% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes and an A from Cinemascore into a record breaking box office weekend.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier got started on Thursday night, taking in a very strong $10.2 million from Thursday night showings. In comparison, Divergent earned $4.9 million from its Thursday night screenings, Noah earned $1.6 million, Marvel’s The Avengers earned $18.7 million and Iron Man 3 earned $15.6 million on Thursday nights. Of course, all of these films had different release patterns, so predicting a weekend gross based simply on a Thursday preview remains an extremely dangerous practice. Just because Captain America: The Winter Soldier earned about 65% of Iron Man 3’s Thursday, but that doesn’t mean it will open to 65% of Iron Man 3's $174 million (or about $113 million). The difference in opening a film in the first weekend in May versus the first weekend of April is still vast, but with Fast and Furious earning $71 million over this weekend in ’09, and now Winter Soldier, we can expect this weekend to be dueled over for years to come, as the spring box office continues to expand.


After that fat $10.2 million on Thursday, expectations got a little out of control on the Friday number, with some anticipating a $100 million plus opening frame. While extremely strong, that was unlikely for the Captain America sequel, regardless of the Thursday preview amount. Outside of the November and the summer, the only films that have opened to $100 million plus are The Hunger Games and Alice in Wonderland. The Friday number for Captain America: Winter Soldier came in at $37 million, but includes the $10.2 million earned on Thursday night. That breaks the single biggest day record for an April release, taking down Fast Five’s $34.4 million, which it earned on April 29, 2011. That film was arguably a May release, so going further down the April opening day chart is Fast & Furious, which earned $30.6 million on April 3, 2009.

The $37 million for The Winter Soldier was $5.1 million better than what Thor: The Dark World opened to in November of last year, which shows the consistent growth of the Marvel cinematic universe. There is no analogy or comparison to make, folks, this is box office history. The films released since Iron Man and the following trend line will be drooled over for decades to come. What Marvel is doing over the last five years is what Jaws did to movies (and box office) in 1975.

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