Marvel Studios and Disney appear to have another hit on their hands in the post-Avengers era.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, returning Chris Evans in the title role, popped up on prerelease tracking Thursday to impressive numbers, according to those who have seen the surveys. The movie rolls out in North America on April 4.
Box-office observers believe the sequel will open north of $80 million domestically. More bullish forecasters believe it will hit $85 million, as sequel Thor: The Dark World did.
The reason? Iron Man and Thor installments launching in the wake of The Avengers -- which featured the characters Iron Man, Thor and Captain America -- have all opened higher than their predecessors. Avengers, the biggest of them all, debuted to $207.4 million in May 2012, the highest domestic launch of all time.
Iron Man 3 rocketed to a $174.1 million opening a year later in May 2013, compared to Iron Man 2's first weekend take of $128.1 million in May 2010.
Thor, hitting theaters in May 2011, debuted to $65.7 million, while Thor: The Dark World zoomed to a $85.7 million start last November.
Captain America: The First Avenger likewise debuted to roughly $65 million in July 2011.
Marvel and Disney are incredibly high on The Winter Soldier, which was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. In the film, Captain America teams with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to stop a covert enemy who is hiding out in Washington, D.C. Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford also star.