Box Office: ‘Captain America’ Delivers Strong Ending to Superhero Summer With $65.8M

Marvel adaptation beats tracking and enjoys biggest opening of the four comics-inspired movies released this summer; rom-com “Friends With Benefits” narrowly misses its mark at $18.5M

Last Updated: July 25, 2011 @ 11:50 AM

It didn't include any smash hits that'll do close to a billion dollars globally, but the Summer of the Superhero ended strongly.

Marvel/Paramount's "Captain America: The First Avenger" beat pre-release estimates and enjoyed the superhero genre's best opening at the domestic box office this summer with $65.8 million, according to studio estimates.

The $140 million film, which scored an A-minus grade from word-of-mouth tracker Cinemascore, narrowly topped the May opening of Marvel/Paramount's "Thor," which started out to $65.7 million. Final estimates will be available Monday.

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Of the four movies based on lesser known comic-book franchises released since May, "Captain America's" $65.8 million is the best opening.

Meanwhile, Warner's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" declined 72 percent from its record-breaking first weekend to $48.1 million.

In third place, Sony romantic comedy "Friends With Benefits" opened to $18.5 million, narrowly missing pre-release estimates that had the Will Gluck-directed film doing about $20 million worth of business.

Among limited openings, Fox Searchlight Sundance pickup "Another Earth" debuted to a solid $78,413 playing at four arthouse locations this weekend.

Here's a look at the top 10. Full report continues below chart:

But the big story remained "Captain America."

The film debuted to $2.8 million internationally, opening up in just 327 locations. It goes wide next weekend in 23 foreign markets, led by the U.K., Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Korea.

"I didn't come across anybody who thought we'd beat Harry Potter in its second weekend," noted Paramount general manager of distribution, Don Harris.

But beat Potter it did — convincingly.

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The film scored a 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making Marvel two-for-two in terms of strong critical praise this summer ("Thor" was 77 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes).

"Captain America's" audience was 62 percent male (no surprise there) and only 42 percent under the age of 25.

It was the last movie distributed by Paramount for Marvel, with the comics studio purchased by Disney two years ago for more than $4 billion.

Was Paramount successful in launching lucrative "Thor" and "Avengers" franchises, on par with say, Marvel's "Iron Man," that will reap Disney billions of dollars in revenue?

Tough to say — even though both "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" had good openings this summer, neither were on par with the original "Iron Man's" huge $98.6 million start three years ago.

Nonetheless, Harris was proud of the Marvel/Paramount collaboration's final effort: "I liked this one best of all the superhero movies that have come out this summer," he said. "It kind of reminded me a little of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'"

Meanwhile, reminding virtually no one of "Raiders," Sony's "Friends With Benefits" commanded a B-plus Cinemascore, and an audience that was 62 percent female and 44 percent under the age of 25.

Box-office watchers outside of Sony had generally predicted that the $34 million R-rated comedy, which paired Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, would debut to just over $20 million.

But Sony should make out just fine, nonetheless.

Consider that Paramount's similarly themed "No Strings Attached" — which paired Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman — opened to $19.6 million on a much less competitive weekend in January.

"It does speak well for our film that "No Strings Attached" opened at a time when there was nothing in the marketplace, and we opened on a much more competitive weekend and did almost as much as they did," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures.

"No Strings Attached" went on to gross $147.8 million worldwide on a $25 million budget. If "Friends With Benefits" can come even close to that, get ready for even more sex-buddy comedies.

Overall, the domestic box office was up again this weekend, about 17 percent over the same weekend last year. Down nearly 20 percent overall at one point earlier this year, the domestic market was only off 6.4 percent from 2010 going into the weekend.

Here's a look at the top 10:

"Captain America: The First Avenger" ($65.8m)
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" ($48.1m)
"Friends With Benefits" ($18.5m)
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" ($12.0m)
"Horrible Bosses" ($11.7m)
"The Zookeeper" ($8.7m)
"Cars 2" ($5.7m)
"Winnie the Pooh" ($5.1m)
"Bad Teacher" ($2.6m)
"Midnight in Paris" ($1.9m)