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Captain America: The Winter Soldier sets April record

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.

Last weekend The Winter Soldier, which stars Chris Evans as the shield-wielding superhero, and Scarlett Johansson (whose sci-fi Under the Skin also debuted this weekend with $140,000) as Black Widow, commanded 32 international markets, gaining $75.2 million in its overseas bow.

Expanding to Russia, Australia and China in its second week, the Marvel comic adaptation, boasting a budget of over $170 million, has earned $207.1 million internationally, bringing its overall worldwide haul to over $303 million.

Also a touchstone for Imax, The Winter Soldier attained $9.6 million on 346 screens showing the film in the enhanced resolution format.

Internationally the film showed on 278 Imax screens resulting in a $6.5 million gain, $4 million of which was delivered from China.

Captain America: The First Avenger, which had a budget of around $140 million, debuted in 2011 with $65 million when it opened in July. 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. In the next month or so we’ll have the benefit of spring break.”

“The Avengers effect,” as Hollis calls it, set the stage for the continuation of Marvel’s massive box office presence, which has continued with the Iron Man and Thor franchises. With the release of the films’ sequels, both have seen jumps of earnings over 35 per cent.

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

“For The Winter Solider to push on $100 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.”

Paramount’s biblical saga Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, took a drastic dip in its second weekend, earning $17 million after debuting with $44 million.

Still, it sailed into second place, crossing the $70 million mark domestically, while pushing Lionsgate’s young adult science-fiction thriller Divergent, led by Shailene Woodley, to third with $13 million in its third week. Its stateside take is now $114 million.

Freestyle Releasing’s surprise hit God’s Not Dead took the No. 4 slot with $7.7 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.

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

1.Captain America: The Winter Soldier, $96.2 million.

2. Noah, $17 million.

3. Divergent, $13 million.

4. God’s Not Dead, $7.7 million.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel, $6.3 million.

6. Muppets Most Wanted, $6.3 million.

7. Mr. Peabody and Sherman, $5.3 million.

8. Sabotage, $1.9 million.

9. Need for Speed, $1.84 million.

10. Non-Stop, $1.83 million.

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