Weekend Box Office – CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Has Summer’s Biggest Superhero Debut with $65.8 Million

     July 24, 2011

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Even with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in its path, Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger had no trouble posting the best superhero debut of this comic-happy summer with $65.8 million.

Title Weekend Total
1 Captain America $65,800,000 $65.8
2 Harry Potter 7b $48,100,000 $274.2
3 Friends With Benefits $18,500,000 $18.5
4 Transformers 3 $12,000,000 $325.7
5 Horrible Bosses $11,720,000 $82.4
6 Zookeeper $8,700,000 $59.2
7 Cars 2 $5,725,000 $176.4
8 Winnie the Pooh $5,140,000 $17.5
9 Bad Teacher $2,600,000 $94.3
10 Midnight in Paris $1,900,000 $48.8

captain-america-movie-poster-imageWhen Green Lantern got off to a less-than glowing start last month many people cited superhero fatigue as the cause.  So how to explain this week’s number one launch of Captain America?  Are fans only tired of non-Marvel superheroes?  Whatever the reason, The First Avenger has now earned the highest debut for a comic book hero in 2011 – besting the $65.7 debut of Thor back in May by the narrowest of margins.  In fact, the two films are so close that, at this point, I would suggest waiting until final figures are revealed on Monday before banking on the Captain’s new title

You may recall that the reaction to Thor’s first weekend domestic gross was rather muted.  Though $65.7 million was a completely respectable launch for a new superhero franchise it was not in the same financial league as past films which had the coveted first weekend of summer all to themselves.  In comparison, Captain America’s nearly equivalent opening looks far more impressive.  Not only did the Capt. have to battle that aforementioned fatigue, he also had the burden of launching the week after the final Harry Potter film smashed the all-time opening weekend record.  Until Friday, in fact, it seemed likely that Deathly Hallows 2 would be a repeat at number one.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Whether Captain America remains ahead Thor in terms of debut grosses or not, the Norse God will likely be the more successful of the two Avengers worldwide.  Thor launched day and date around the world on May 6th and brought in about 60% of his overall total of $445 million from overseas. Captain America will expand internationally through August and there is no telling how well the film’s uber-patriotic promotions will play outside the US.  Here at home Thor realized 60% of his domestic opening from his 3D dates while The First Avenger claimed just 40% from its 2,511 higher-priced venues.  Critically, both films were well-received, with Captain America rating 73% on Rotten Tomatoes to Thor’s 77%.

After breaking records for its midnight launch, first day and opening weekend, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 began to run out of steam on Friday.  The final film in the now $7 billion franchise saw one of the steepest Friday to Friday declines in recent memory at 84% and, despite depriving The Dark Knight of its former domestic opening weekend record by over $10 million, Deathly Hallows 2 fell just behind TDK on the list of all-time best seven day starts: $226.1 million to Batman’s $238.6.   Even more significant is the record that Deathly Hallows 2 will claim in its second weekend.  With a sophmore estimate of $48.1 million, Harry Potter saw a decline of approximately 72% this weekend.  While that is not unheard of for a frontloaded blockbuster (The Twilight Saga: New Moon fell off by 70%) the final Potter film now holds the title for the biggest second weekend drop of all-time with a staggering $121 million.  The bigger they are and all that…

friends-with-benefits-justin-timberlake-mila-kunis-sliceIf this summer was loaded with mid-level comic book heroes it may ultimately be remembered for its successes in a different genre: the R-rated comedy.  Just as Captain America followed Thor and Green Lantern, this week Friends With Benefits followed Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher.  Unfortunately, Friends could not outdo its predecessors in the same way that this week’s number one film did.  Earning an estimated $18.5 million from 2,926 locations, Friends With Benefits was well behind the $24.6 and $31 million debuts of Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher, respectively.  Perhaps more telling, FWB also fell behind the $19.6 million January debut of No Strings Attached: the R-rated rom-com that was once titled “Friends With Benefits.”

Overall, this weekend was ahead of summer 2010 when Inception debuted with $62.7 million.  Christopher Nolan’s thriller held the top spot for two weeks which means that next weekend has a good shot of keeping the box office in the black if the long-awaited Cowboys and Aliens doesn’t tank.

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