Apr 4 2014, 10:46am CDT | by Forbes
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been around long enough that we can make reasonable predictions about the opening weekend take just from the Thursday night box office. Marvel Universe films are relatively consistent in terms of how they play out over their respective opening weekends. When Walt Disney reports that Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the ninth entry in the franchise, earned a terrific $10.2 million on its advance-night Thursday showings, it stands to reason that we’re possibly looking at around $107-$125 million for the weekend.
In 2011, Thor debuted with $3.25 million in midnight showings, leading the way to a $65m debut. That means Thor earned about 5% of its opening weekend at midnight, which was relatively normal when it came to non-sequels outside of heavily-anticipated teen or geek-centric fare like The Hunger Games (13%) or Pacific Rim (9.6%), especially back when midnight/Thursday sneaks were just starting to become status quo across-the-board. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a sequel, so expect last night’s number to make up closer to 9% of its weekend take, which would equal $113m.
For reference, Iron Man 2 earned 5.6% of its $128m debut ($7.5m) in 2010 at midnight (just before midnight screenings became a regular event for even general moviegoers), Iron Man 3 earned about 9% of its $175m debut on Thursday, and The Avengers earned about 9% of its $207m figure at Thursday midnight screenings. In terms of out-of-summer debuts, Thor: The Dark World earned $7.1m on Thursday last November, leading to a $85.7m debut weekend, or about 8% of its weekend take before the official start of the weekend. Iron Man 2‘s 5.6% is basically out of the question, although such a figure would give Captain America 2 $182 million for the weekend.
In the interest of being fair, rather than just presuming the 9% number will hold ($113m), let’s give Captain America 2 a Thursday take of between 7% and 11% for the weekend. With the aforementioned $10.2 million Thursday haul, we’re looking at an opening weekend between $92m and $145m for the weekend, with reasonable guestimates falling just a bit over/under the $120 million mark. Now it is possible that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is more Thursday-frontloaded than a conventional Marvel title, so let’s not pretend to be horrified if it ends up pulling in 11% of its take last night for a “mere” $92m weekend.
Of note, and a slight digression, April blockbusters are relatively rare. The closest comparison would be Fast Five in 2011 ($3.8m/$85.7m) and Clash of the The Titans in 2010 ($2.7m/$61.25m). Both films pulled 4.5% of their opening weekend take via Thursday or Friday at 12:01am screenings. But midnight screenings, let alone Thursday screenings, were far less common even a few years ago, and as such the amount of the weekend represented in these early sneaks has steadily risen just over the last 3-4 years. I’m going to assume that Captain America 2 isn’t going to open with $225m this weekend.
Obviously we’ll know when we know. The advance night number is pretty big, and the worst case scenario is that it plays more frontloaded like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (around 12%) and merely gets to $85m. But that’s unlikely. The word of mouth is pretty terrific thus far, with my relative “B-” review counting as an outright pan in comparison, and the film’s real-world action thriller elements will entice those less inclined to see a more fantastical superhero film. Come what may, we’re looking at a pretty spectacular weekend debut. In the meantime, let me open the comments portion to discussion of the movie itself, now that it’s officially in worldwide release. Spoilers are allowed, as long as they are clearly labeled.
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