‘Captain America’ Opens With $96.2 Million, an April Record

Photographer: Zade Rosenthal/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Everett Collection

Chris Evans stars in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Close

Chris Evans stars in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

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Photographer: Zade Rosenthal/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Everett Collection

Chris Evans stars in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the superhero sequel to the 2011 movie, generated an estimated $96.2 million in its weekend debut for Walt Disney Co. (DIS), a record for an April release.

The film, starring Chris Evans in the title role, left behind “Noah,” the biblical epic with Russell Crowe, which took in $17 million in its second weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters for Paramount Pictures, according to an e-mailed statement today from Rentrak Corp. “Captain America” was projected to collect $97 million by BoxOffice.com.

“The Winter Soldier” marks an early start to the summer film season, which traditionally starts in May and during which Hollywood studios release some of their biggest movies. Spreading out the premiere dates helps the industry avoid too many of its so-called tentpole pictures cannibalizing one another’s sales.

“Pushing toward $100 million for a debut in April was previously unthinkable,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst. “Marvel and Disney had the foresight to to go with a date that is in the pre-summer schedule with little competition.”

Super Soldier

Opening sales of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” beat the previous high for the month, $86.2 million, recorded by “Fast Five” in 2011, according to Rentrak. The $96.2 million in “Winter Soldier” receipts includes $10.2 million in Thursday showings, a portion of which were screened at midnight.

Overseas sales of “The Winter Soldier” have generated $107.1 million, according to Disney. The movie should have $248 million in receipts in its full theatrical run in the U.S. and Canada, according to BoxOffice.com, which last week increased its forecasts.

“Winter Soldier” picks up the story of Steve Rogers, played by Evans, the slight recruit who becomes a super soldier after volunteering for a top-secret project. In the sequel to the 2011 movie, set in World War II, Rogers finds himself in the Cold War era where he battles a new threat, a Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Scarlett Johansson is featured as Black Widow. Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson also star.

The movie’s predecessor, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” was released by Paramount and garnered $65.1 million in its opening weekend in July 2011, according to Box Office Mojo.

Positive Rating

The success of “Captain America: Winter Soldier” provides more evidence of the money-making power of Marvel studios, acquired by Disney for about $4 billion four years ago. “Marvel’s The Avengers” generated $1.52 billion in global ticket sales in 2012, making it the third-highest grossing movie of all time.

The team at Marvel “really knows how to make a movie,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, in an interview. “Their consistency never ceases to amaze. It is particularly satisfying that the movie plays so well.”

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and cost an estimated $170 million to produce, according to Box Office Mojo. It received an 89 percent positive rating on review aggregator website Rottentomatoes.com.

The movie “gets off to a kinetic start only to lose steam before blowing everything up,” wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “It’s fun until it goes kablooey.”

Faith Challenged

“Noah,” which also features Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Ray Winstone, has won acclaim for its visual effects while receiving some criticism for the artistic license taken with the biblical story. Domestic sales for its two weeks in release total $72.3 million.

“Divergent,” the returning movie from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF) about teen warriors, collected $13 million to place third. The first installment in the studio’s latest young adult franchise has taken in $114 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to Rentrak.

“God’s Not Dead,” a religious movie from Pure Flix Entertainment, collected $7.7 million for fourth place. The film follows a student whose faith is challenged by his philosophy professor. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” collected $6.3 million to place fifth for Fox Searchlight.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 26 percent to $157.4 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $2.59 billion, up 7 percent from a year earlier.

The following table has U.S. movie box office figures provided by studios to Rentrak Corp. (RENT)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Livesey in San Francisco at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Dan Hart in Washington at dahart@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net Sylvia Wier, Richard Richtmyer

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