July 25 update: Captain America: The First Avenger grossed $65.1 million – including about $4 million from midnight screenings – at the North American box office this past weekend (July 22-24), according to box office actuals found at boxofficemojo.com. Distributor Paramount Pictures had overestimated Captain America‘s box office take by nearly $800,000, which led some to claim the Joe Johnston-directed Marvel comics adaptation starring Chris Evans was the biggest superhero movie of 2011. That’s not so.
Actually, let me rephrase that. That’s not so in terms of box office revenues, as the Kenneth Branagh-Chris Hemsworth film version of another Marvel character, Thor, took in $65.7 million when it opened in early May. But in terms of attendance, Captain America (40 percent of revenues from costlier 3D venues) was ahead of Thor (60 percent of revenues from costlier 3D venues) – in addition to both X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern.
Much has been said about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 plunging 72 percent on its second weekend out. Reports of Harry Potter’s demise, however, have been grossly exaggerated – or rather, distorted.
Deathly Hallows: Part 2 boasted the biggest midnight opening ever by far, $43.5 million. Leave aside those midnight earnings, and the latest Harry Potter movie was down a hefty – though hardly horrific – 61 percent. In fact, that’s not bad at all for a movie that earned more on one weekend than the vast majority of movies earn in their various lifetimes (theaters, television, DVDs, toys, hosiery, etc.).
A better example of a movie truly plummeting on its second weekend out would be the case of the Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated. Despite the addition of four theaters – a 40 percent increase in venues – The Undefeated was down 62 percent, taking in a mere $24,664 at 14 locations. Now, that is a flop in every sense of the word. (And no, I’m not comparing Palins to Potters here; this is a case of a movie in limited release with no appeal even within its political niche.)
At no. 3, Will Gluck’s R-rated comedy Friends with Benefits, pulled in $18.6 million at the North American box office this past weekend (July 22–24), according to box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. Starring Justin Timberlake and Black Swan‘s Mila Kunis, Friends with Benefits opened slightly behind the similarly themed January release No Strings Attached. A vehicle for Kunis’ Black Swan co-star Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, No Strings Attached collected $19.7 million. Friends with Benefits was also behind Justin Timberlake’s other 2011 R-rated comedy, Bad Teacher.
Just recently, both Timberlake and Kunis received a much-publicized invitation to a military ball somewhere in the American South. No doubt the timing of the invitation was merely a patriotic coincidence.
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (replacing Megan Fox), and Josh Duhamel, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon brought in $12.1 million at no. 4. It was followed by Horrible Bosses, with $11.9 million at no. 5. The R-rated comedy, which was ahead of Transformers 3 for several days last week, stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Spacey.
Below are comparisons between Captain America: The First Avenger and first-timer (non-sequel) superheroes of years past, none of which had the advantage of revenue-boosting 3D surcharges. Note that Captain America brought in less opening-weekend revenue (an estimated $65.8 million) than Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man. Adjusted for inflation, it was behind Fantastic Four as well. And if 3D surcharges are factored in, Captain America attracted fewer moviegoers than The Incredible Hulk, Superman Returns, and Batman Begins. Having said that, bear in mind that a weaker opening weekend doesn’t necessarily mean weaker overall revenues, as exemplified by Batman Begins.
- Louis Leterrier-Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk opened with $55.4 million (approx. $60 million today) from 3,505 theaters in June 2008. It went on to gross $134 million domestically, $263 million worldwide.
- Jon Favreau-Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man debuted with $98.61 million (approx. $108 million today) from 4,105 theaters in early May 2008. It went on to gross $318 million domestically, $585 million worldwide.
- Bryan Singer-Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns took in $52.53 million (approx. $63 million today) from 4,065 theaters in late June 2006. It went on to gross $200 million domestically, $398 million worldwide.
- Tim Story- Ioan Gruffudd-Jessica Alba’s Fantastic Four, which also starred Captain America‘s Chris Evans, opened with $56 million (approx. $69 million today) from 3,602 theaters in July 2005. It went on to gross $154 million domestically, $330 million worldwide.
- Christopher Nolan-Christian Bale’s Batman Begins opened with $48.7 million (approx. $60 million today) from 3,858 theaters in mid-June 2005. It went on to gross $205.3 million domestically, $372.7 million worldwide.
- Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man opened with $114.8 million (approx. $155 million today) from 3,615 theaters in early May 2002. It went on to gross $403 million domestically, $821 million worldwide.
- Back in 2000, Bryan Singer-Hugh Jackman-Patrick Stewart’s X-Men collected $54.5 million (approx. $80 million today) from 3,025 theaters. X-Men went on to gross $157 million domestically, $296 million worldwide.
Captain America cost a reported $140 million. For comparison’s sake: Green Lantern cost $200 million, Thor $150 million, X-Men: First Class $160 million, Superman Returns $270 million, Batman Begins $150 million.
Even while excluding its Thursday midnight screenings, Captain America was only less than 1 percent up on Saturday. Yet, Paramount predicted a quite modest 17 percent drop on Sunday. If the studio’s “positive expectation” turns out to be correct, Captain America will have barely beaten Thor‘s $65.7 million to become 2011’s biggest superhero at the North American box office. Else, Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth, will remain no. 1. (Note that both superheroes will be featured in next year’s The Avengers.)
For comparison’s sake: Matthew Vaughn-James McAvoy-Michael Fassbender-Jennifer Lawrence’s X-Men: First Class opened with $55.1 million in early June, while Martin Campbell-Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern collected $53.2 million upon its mid-June debut.
Earlier this week, many were wondering if Captain America would be able to beat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at the North American box office this weekend. I’m assuming no one was considering a Copper-Canyonesque 84 percent drop for Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which earned an estimated $14.6 million on Friday. Even discounting the $43.5 million the latest Harry Potter movie earned at Thursday midnight screenings, it was down a whopping 69 percent compared to the previous Friday.
That means Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will likely have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday – perhaps even Friday – next week to pass the $300 million milestone in the U.S. and Canada. A little delay, but obviously nothing to be sniffed at.
At no. 3, 2011’s latest R-rated comedy, Will Gluck’s Friends with Benefits, pulled in $6.8 million. Starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, Friends with Benefits opened slightly behind the $7.3 million earned by the similarly themed No Strings Attached. A January release, No Strings Attached starred Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.
Chris Evans Captain America: The First Avenger image: Jay Maidment | Marvel | Paramount Pictures.