‘Captain America’ Throws His Shield At Box-Office Records

Can 'The Winter Soldier' beat 'Fast Five'?

“Marvel’s The Avengers” became the third biggest movie of all time, so it’s fitting that The First Avenger could be headed for the record books on his own. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had already made $75 million overseas by the time it opened in North America on Thursday night. The third Marvel Cinematic Universe film since “The Avengers” (and arguably the most direct sequel to that film) will easily beat the opening of Cap’s first solo venture.

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However, “Captain America: The First Avenger” isn’t the movie to beat. “Fast Five” (which opened in 2011, the same year as Chris Evans debuted as Cap) holds the record for biggest April opening ever with $86.1 million, on its way to a $209 million domestic haul. “The Winter Soldier” had the most advance ticket sales for any movie released in April in Fandango’s 14 year history, according to The Hollywood Reporter. MovieTickets.com reported incredibly strong sales as well.

“The Winter Soldier” has joined “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man 2″ and “X2: X-Men United” in the elite group of superhero sequels that are even better than their predecessors. A critical response as strong as the World War II era Super Soldier himself certainly isn’t hurting Cap’s box office potential. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” boasted an 88 percent Rotten Tomatoes score on Thursday. MTV News own Kevin P. Sullivan declared it among Marvel Studios’ best.

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Like “The First Avenger,” “Thor” opened with $65 million in 2011. Following the gargantuan success of “The Avengers,” last year’s “Thor: The Dark World” began with $20 million more than that. Earlier in the year, “Iron Man 3” enjoyed a big Avengers bounce, breaking records in May with an astounding $174 million start. Only “The Avengers” and the first “Iron Man” earned better reviews than “The Winter Soldier.” “Avengers,” “Iron Man 3″ and “Iron Man” are the top grossers.

The fact that the Cap sequel boasts even bigger roles for Black Widow and Nick Fury than “The Avengers” certainly bolsters the title hero’s chances, giving it that group feel. Add a fan-favorite villain in the form of “The Winter Soldier,” plus the introduction of The Falcon, big name comics first African American superhero . Stan Lee and Gene Colan created Cap’s winged partner, who made his first appearance in 1969′s Captain America #117. (Lee cameos in “The Winter Soldier.”)

Industry expectations varied as of Thursday night, with both Variety and TheWrap predicting an opening north of $90 million while Entertainment Weekly boldly projected $95 million. Business Insider hedged their bets, pinning the number at “between $90 and $97 million.” The sometimes conservative Box Office Mojo actually went even further, putting “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” at nearly $99 million. This week, the conservative estimate belonged to Coming Soon, who offered that Cap would beat “Fast Five,” but still come in under $90 million.

Last weekend’s #1 hit “