Captain America sets box office record

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Disney and Marvel could be one of the finest teams around.

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Continuing the success of their superhero franchise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has set a record as the biggest domestic April release ever. The Disney sequel debuted with $US96.2 million ($A104.49 million), topping the previous record-holder, 2011’s Fast Five, which opened with $US86.2 million.

The Winter Soldier, which stars Chris Evans as the shield-wielding superhero and Scarlett Johansson (whose sci-fi film Under the Skin also debuted this weekend with $US140,000) as Black Widow, commanded 32 international markets last weekend.

Expanding to Russia, Australia and China in its second week, the Marvel comic adaptation, boasting a budget of over $US170 million, earned $US107.1 million internationally this weekend, bringing its overall worldwide haul to more than $US303 million.

Also a touchstone for Imax, The Winter Soldier received $US9.6 million of its US haul on 346 screens showing the film in the enhanced resolution format. Internationally, it showed on 278 Imax screens, bringing in $US6.5 million, $US4 million of which was delivered from China.

Captain America: The First Avenger, which had a budget of around $US140 million, debuted in July 2011 with $US65 million. Overall, it earned $US371 million worldwide.

“The Avengers effect,” as Dave Hollis, head of worldwide theatrical distribution for Disney, calls it, set the stage for the continuation of Marvel’s massive box office presence, which includes the Iron Man and Thor franchises. With the release of the films’ sequels, both have seen earning jumps of over 35 per cent.

“There are very few movie brands that are this consistent,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, said of the Disney-Marvel team.

“For The Winter Soldier to push on $US100 million in April shows that you can release a big movie any time of the year. Every studio is going to be looking at this date to plant their flag in the future.”

Meanwhile, Paramount’s biblical saga Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, took a drastic dip in its second weekend, earning $US17 million after debuting with $US44 million. Still, it sailed into second place, crossing the $US70 million mark domestically, while pushing Lionsgate’s young adult science-fiction thriller Divergent, led by Shailene Woodley, to third with $US13 million in its third week. Its stateside total is now $US114 million.

Freestyle Releasing’s surprise hit God’s Not Dead took the No. 4 slot with $US7.7 million in its third weekend.

Despite the decrease in the Noah box office performance, the outcome of film’s debut, its overall haul, and the success of both “Son of God” and “God’s Not Dead” bodes well for other biblical-themed films coming this year, including “Heaven is for Real,” starring Greg Kinnear and “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” starring Christian Bale.

Coming in at No.5, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel collected $US6.3 million, bringing its domestic total to $US33 million. Fox Searchlight expanded its stylish comedy to 1,263 locations, and the studio plans to add even more in the coming weeks. This is Anderson’s second widest expansion following 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The weekend’s other releases included Codeblack Films’ Frankie and Alice, starring Halle Berry as a dancer with multiple personality disorder. Playing in 171 locations, it earned $US350,000.

And Fox Searchlight’s dark comedy Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, had a domestic gross of $US32,000 after showing in only four theatres in New York and Los Angeles. Next week the film will expand to nearly 40 locations.

Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, which landed at No.6 with $US6.3 million in its third weekend, and Fox’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman, coming in at No.7 with $5.3 million in its fifth weekend, were the top kiddie films. But Fox’s animated Rio 2 stands to knock them down a few notches when it opens in the US next weekend.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, $US96.2 million ($107.1 million international).

2. Noah, $US17 million ($US46 million international).

3. Divergent, $US13 million ($US11.1 million international).

4. God’s Not Dead, $US7.7 million.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel, $US6.3 million ($US5.5 million international).

6. Muppets Most Wanted, $US6.3 million ($US1.9 million international).

7. Mr. Peabody and Sherman, $US5.3 million ($US11.2 million international).

8. Sabotage, $US1.9 million.

9. Need for Speed, $US1.84 million ($US4.7 million international).

10. Non-Stop, $US1.83 million ($US2.5 million international).

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