Paramount and Marvel Studios scored another victory as Chris Evans-starrer Captain America: The First Avenger topped the domestic box office with a $65.8 million launch, in line with fellow superhero pic Thor and successfully building an audience for next summer’s superhero extravaganza The Avengers.
Captain America did enough business to come in No. 1, ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which fell a steep 72% after its mammoth debut a week earlier.
Deathly Hallows 2 still remained a box office giant, grossing $48.1 million in its second frame for a domestic total of $274.2 million. Its dip was no surprise to box office observers, considering it opened to $169.2 million, the best showing of all time and underscoring the rush to see the final title in the franchise.
Coming in No. 3 at the domestic box office was Screen Gems’ Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis starrer Friends With Benefits, Hollywood’s latest raunchy R-rated comedy. The pic, directed by Will Gluck, opened to $18.5 million, slightly behind the $19.7 million earned by the similarly themed No Strings Attached in January of this year, but still a solid launch.
Friends With Benefits, made for a modest $34 million, played best to women, who repped 62% of the audience.
Directed by Joe Johnston, Captain America drew the most attention. Together, Captain America and Thor—which opened to $65.7 million in May—sport the biggest openings of the summer for non-sequels, easily besting the $53.2 million debut of Green Lantern.
Captain America, receiving an A- CinemaScore, drew a younger audience than Thor, with 43% of those buying tickets under the age of 25. Of those turning out for the opening weekend of Thor—which drew a B+ CinemaScore—only 25% were under the age of 25.
Costing a reported $140 million to make, Captain America is the final title to be distributed theatrically by Paramount per its deal with Marvel Studios. Together the partners have now released four films, including the first two pics in the enormously lucrative Iron Man franchise.
Disney, owner of Marvel, will now take over the distribution of Marvel titles previously handled by Paramount, although Paramount will still have an interest in Avengers and Iron Man 3, including pay TV rights.
Both Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, star of Thor, are reprising their roles in Avengers, which also features Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk and Sam Jackson. as Nick Fury, among other Marvel characters.
“When you look at these two properties [Captain America and Thor], you’ve now got a lot of momentum going into next summer’s Avengers,” Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said.
Even rival studios have credited Paramount for its marketing acumen.
Captain America and Thor have done the best of any superhero pic this summer in terms of their opening gross, while Thor is the summer’s top superhero title worldwide, grossing $445.8 million globally, compared to the $346.9 million earned so far by Fox’s X-Men: First Class.
There have been questions about how Captain America will perform overseas, because of its title and bent. If the film’s opening in Italy over the weekend is any indication, the movie appears to be on solid footing.
Captain America opened to $2.8 million in Italy, 16% ahead of the first Iron Man, but slightly behind Thor.
“It played like a big tentpole in Italy, suggesting there won’t be much push back overseas,” Moore said.