Hey, America, we’re No. 1! Captain America, the 973rd Marvel muscleman to make the leap from pulp pages to A-budget movies, kicked sand in the face of that puny Brit teen Harry Potter. The Captain’s announced three-day gross of $65.8 million easily won the weekend at North American theaters, according to early studio reports. Attracting mostly men (64%) over the age of 25 (58%) as befits a fantasy war movie set in the 1940s this revenge-of the-nerd epic exceeded industry predictions and kept the blockbuster summer rolling in high gear. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II slumped to second place after a record-setting debut, while the R-rated bed-buddies comedy Friends With Benefits opened meekly in the show position.
Starring Chris Evans (and a smaller stunt double) as Steve Rogers, the 98-lb. patriot whom weird science transforms into a Charles Atlas Adonis to battle Hitler’s most powerful madman the Red Skull, Captain America had two missions: to knock off the boy wizard and to establish bragging rights as the year’s top comic-book superhero movie. In a mine’s-bigger showdown of preternatural protagonists, Captain America‘s $65.8 million just barely tops the $65.7 million vacuumed up by Thor at least until the final three-day figures are revealed tomorrow. X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern opened last month at $55.1 million and $53.2 million respectively. Captain America climaxes the world’s longest drum roll for next summer’s The Avengers, in which Steve Rogers and Thor will join Tony Stark (Iron Man), Bruce Banner (The Hulk) and other Marvel-ous dudes in a one-film Comic-Con convention and, the company hopes, its biggest hit yet.
By now a Harry Potter movie, after its gigantic debut, is not going to benefit from word-of-mouth or persuade latecomers to the series to catch the concluding chapter of an immense and immensely complicated story. And the most ardent Potterites aren’t likely to make repeat visits, because they already made the movie in their minds as they read the book. As pleased as they were to see the official picturization, they also were the first to critique DH2 for rushing through its finale and leaving out important parts of the grand mythology. Terri Cummins of Liberty Township, N.J., attended a first-weekend showing with her daughter Nicole; and while acknowledging the film’s merits, she cheerfully itemized a half-dozen elements she thought should have been in the movie or could been done better. True believers have high standards.
Hoping to deliver the date-night crowd, Friends With Benefits paired Justin Timberlake with Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman’s ballerina nemesis in Black Swan. But Timberlake, fresh from a co-starring role in the Cameron Diaz hit Bad Teacher and a high-rated Saturday Night Live episode with Lady Gaga, nonetheless opened at just $18.5 million, a little south of the $19.7 million that Portman’s similar sex-but-not-love comedy No Strings Attached earned in January. Timberlake still could be a movie star, but he may have to be satisfied with a gig as permanent SNL host, or possibly the heterosexuals’ Neil Patrick Harris.
In indie action, Sarah’s Key, the French-language drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas and distributed by les frères Weinstein, opened smartly with $117,000 at five theaters; and Another Earth, the philosophical fantasy call it sci-phi that Mary Pols of TIME.com pegged as “the most soulful art movie of the summer,” took in a thoughtful $78,400 on four screens. As for that superheroine of the American Right, Sarah Palin, her documentary The Undefeated grossed $101,000 in its first week at theaters in 10 cities, but the film’s distributor has not yet announced its second-weekend tally. We’re guessing that Palin attracted fewer acolytes than Captain America or Harry Potter. Or Kristin Scott Thomas.
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Captain America: The First Avenger, $65.8 million, first week
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, $48.1 million; $274.1 million, second week
3. Friends With Benefits, $18.5 million, first weekend
4. Transformers: Dark if the Moon, $12 million; $325.8 million, fourth week
5. Horrible Bosses, $11.7 million; $82.4 million, third week
6. Zookeeeper, $8.7 million; $59.2 million, third week
7. Cars 2, $5.7 million; $176.4 million, fifth week
8. Winnie the Pooh, $5.1 million; $17.6 million, second week
9. Bad Teacher, $2.6 million; $94.4 million, fifth week
10. Midnight in Paris, $1.9 million; $44.9 million, tenth week