(Recasts story to include Disney track record with Marvel
By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, April 6 "Captain America:
The Winter Soldier," the sequel to Marvel's 2011 film about the
red, white and blue superhero, smashed its way to $96.2 million
in weekend ticket sales, setting a new record for an April
release and speeding past last week's winner, "Noah."
In the process, it also validated the strategy of the film's
distributor, Walt Disney Co, to ramp up its pipeline of
films featuring super heroes made famous by bashing bad guys in
"Captain America," which stars Chris Evans as a scrawny
World War Two reject given super powers from an experimental
serum, easily exceeded the April take for the racing movie "Fast
Five," which collected $86.2 million in ticket sales in April
Since Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, Marvel
characters have starred in some of Hollywood's biggest hits.
"Iron Man 3" was last year's second-highest grossing film with
domestic ticket sales of $409 million, according to the site Box
In 2012, "Marvel's The Avengers" was the third-biggest film
in Hollywood history, with $623.4 million in domestic sales and
$1.5 billion worldwide.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is "a safe bet" to
pass $250 million, said Box Office Mojo.
Disney takes advantage of each hit by spinning it through
its sprawling network of theme parks, TV studio and consumer
products units. The movies sell well on DVD, and Disney will
generate hefty revenue from sales of "Captain America" t-shirts,
lunch boxes and action figures.
The company is also making four original live-action TV
series for Netflix that will begin streaming next year.
"When you put the name Marvel on a movie, we think that it
gives us essentially a head start with the audience," Disney
Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts during a conference call
"Noah," starring Russell Crowe as the biblical figure, was
second with $17 million in ticket sales from Friday to Sunday.
The dystopian action film "Divergent" was third with $13
million, for a total of $114 million since its March 21 release
in U.S. and Canadian theaters.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" also scored the
biggest opening weekend of 2014, and took in another $9.6
million at IMAX screenings, for which moviegoers a premium. That
also set a new April record.
"I would certainly expect we can broaden out" beyond the
usual Marvel film buyers, said Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios'
executive vice president of film distribution. Hollis noted that
some 90 percent of critics gave positive notices as collated by
the Rotten Tomatoes website and audiences rated the film an A.
Fourth for the weekend, with sales of $7.7 million, was the
independently released Christian drama "God's Not Dead," which
continued its impressive run despite being panned by critics.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" rounded out the top five, taking
in $6.3 million. Starring Ralph Fiennes as a scheming concierge
and directed by Wes Anderson, the film started slowly, playing
in only four theaters on March 7 and has grown steadily. It is
currently playing in 1,263 theaters.
Disney distributed "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
"Noah" was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom.
Lionsgate distributed "Divergent." "The Grand
Budapest Hotel" was released by Fox Searchlight, a unit of
Twenty-First Century Fox. "God's Not Dead" was
distributed by Freestyle Releasing.
(Reporting By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud; Editing by Kevin
Liffey and Paul Simao)