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'Captain America' debuts on top

by JESSICA HERNDON AP Film Writer on April 07, 2014 10:59 AM

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

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 $96.2 million, topping the previous record-holder, 2011’s “Fast Five,” which opened with $86.2 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 $140,000) 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 $170 million, earned $107.1 million internationally this weekend, bringing its overall worldwide haul to more than $303 million.

Also a touchstone for Imax, “The Winter Soldier” received $9.6 million of its U.S. haul on 346 screens showing the film in the enhanced resolution format. Internationally, it showed on 278 Imax screens, bringing in $6.5 million, $4 million of which was delivered from China.

“Captain America: The First Avenger,” which had a budget of around $140 million, debuted in July 2011 with $65 million. Overall, it earned $371 million worldwide.

Why the shift to an April release rather than remaining a summer launch?

“We looked at the possibility of creating separation from the other summer tentpoles,” said Dave Hollis, head of worldwide theatrical distribution for Disney. “There was an opportunity. We have the second Marvel film coming at the end of the summer in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ We wanted to start and end the summer and take advantage of this holiday.”

“The Avengers effect,” as Hollis 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 percent.

Estimated ticket sales below are for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included.

1.”Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” $96.2 million ($107.1 million international)

2.”Noah,” $17 million ($46 million international)

3.”Divergent,” $13 million ($11.1 million international)

4.”God’s Not Dead,” $7.7 million

5.”The Grand Budapest Hotel,” $6.3 million ($5.5 million international)

6.”Muppets Most Wanted,” $6.3 million ($1.9 million international)

7.”Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” $5.3 million ($11.2 million international)

8.”Sabotage,” $1.9 million

9.”Need for Speed,” $1.84 million ($4.7 million international)

10.”Non-Stop,” $1.83 million ($2.5 million international)

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