‘Captain America’ Is Now Captain April At Box Office

'The Winter Soldier' smashes April opening-weekend record with $96.2 million debut.

After this past weekend, the “A” on Captain America’s helmet might as well stand for “April.”

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” set a new opening-weekend record for the month of April with an estimated $96.2 million. Not only was that enough to knock 2011′s “Fast Five” from April’s pole position, but it was a 48 percent improvement over the launch of “Captain America: The First Avenger” the same year.

The Captain America sequel, which features the World War II-era hero battling bad guys in modern day, benefited from what many observers are calling “the ‘Avengers’ bounce.” Ever since “Iron Man” kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, subsequent solo installments (“The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor” and the first “Captain America”) all built toward the massive team-up film “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which is now the third-biggest movie ever.

“The Avengers” is the biggest superhero movie ever, the biggest comic book adaptation ever and ranks #2 for both IMAX and 3D. As a result of the concentrated comic style continuity between films, each subsequent solo outing has debuted much stronger than their respective predecessors. “Iron Man 3″ was first out of the gate, playing in many ways like a sequel to “The Avengers.” Even with a new director onboard in the form of Shane Black, “Iron Man 3″ passed every movie ever (except “The Avengers”!) with its astounding $174.1 million start. Shellhead’s third solo flick eventually became the fifth-biggest movie ever overseas.

At 48 percent, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has had the biggest post-Avengers bounce yet. “Iron Man 3″ was up 36 percent from the previous installment. Last November’s “Thor: The Dark World” opened 30 percent higher than “Thor.” There’s a strong argument for “The Winter Soldier” feeling more like an “Avengers” sequel than any other film thus far, considering Black Widow, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are all featured prominently. Add to that some overwhelmingly positive critical reviews, an “A” CinemaScore and a fan-favorite villain in the form of the Winter Soldier, and it’s clearly a winning formula.

“The Winter Soldier” is now playing in 92 percent of the world’s movie markets. At $207 million at the foreign box office, the Captain America sequel has already out-earned the original. Overall, “The Winter Soldier” has made over $303.3 million in the past two weeks, against a reported production budget of $170 million.

Paramount distributed the first “Captain America” movie, but the latest installment is all Disney. “The Winter Soldier” rained on the parade of Cap’s former corporate home even further by displacing “Noah” from the #1 spot. Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic dropped 61 percent to $17 million, giving it a two week total of $72.3 million. “Divergent” slipped only 49 percent over the weekend, bringing the YA franchise starter’s three-week total to $114 million.

“God’s Not Dead” was #4 with $7.7 million, with Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” rounding out the top 5 at $6.3 million.

“Budapest” is playing in less than half the number of theaters as “The Winter Soldier” or “Noah” and has managed to make $33.3 million as it’s expanded. Two big stars had films open in limited release over the weekend to much different results: Halle Berry’s “Frankie & Alice,” which has been sitting around waiting on a release date for a few years, underwhelmed with $350,000 in 171 theaters. Meanwhile, Avengers teammate Scarlett Johansson had the R-rated drama “Under the Skin” debut in just four theaters (two in New York, two in Los Angeles) to the tune of $140,000 — a very strong per-screen average of $35,000.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” and “Muppets Most Wanted” had better duck for cover this weekend, as the well-reviewed (thus far) “Rio 2″ is certain to dominate the family-friendly film realm. Of course, “Rio 2″ has a long road ahead if it hopes to catch “Frozen,” which is now #9 on the all-time box office list.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will be the only superhero flick in town until the arrival of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ on May 2. Sony hopes to launch a mini Marvel Universe of their own with the characters they control: The sequel has Electro, Rhino, Green Goblin and reportedly more Spidey villains, as well.