Box Office: 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' Opens to Huge $10.2 Million Thursday Night

Marvel and Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to a stellar $10.2 million Thursday night at the North American box office, where it is expected to fly past $90 million in its debut to score the top April opening of all time. Some even wonder if it could approach $100 million.

Thursday night's number was ahead of the $7.1 million in Thursday night grosses for last November's Thor: The Dark World, which went on to gross $85.7 million for the weekend, as well as summer 2013 tentpole Man of Steel, which took in $9 million Thursday night for a $116.6 million weekend. It also came in ahead of December 2013 offering The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ($8.8 million).

Disney insiders say midnight shows were especially strong (it began rolling out at 8 p.m.), signaling that younger moviegoers are turning out in force.

By midday Thursday, Captain America 2 became the top-selling April title in Fandango's 14-year history, eclipsing Universal's Fast Five, which debuted to $86.2 million in late April 2011. Fandango rival MovieTickets.com is also reporting brisk sales.

PHOTOS: 'Winter Soldier' World Premiere in Hollywood

Overseas, the $170 million sequel is already a hit, racing past the $100 million mark on Wednesday after scoring $75.2 million last weekend from 32 markets. Captain America 2 opened in Russia and Australia on Thursday, and in China on Friday.

In North America, Marvel and Disney are essentially kicking off the box-office summer season a month early by deciding to open Captain America 2 on the first weekend in April in the U.S.

Any domestic opening above $80 million or $85 million would be a rousing number for the movie, which looks to benefit from the post-Avengers glow. Like the first Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger launched to roughly $65 million domestically in July 2011. But the wild success of 2012's The Avengers has seen fortunes rise for the Iron Man and Thor franchises. The same is expected for The Winter Soldier, particularly since it is receiving stellar reviews.

Returning Chris Evans in the title role, as well as Avengers stars Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson, Winter Soldier picks up two years after Avengers left off. Captain America and Black Widow (Johansson) discover there is a secret conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and fight to stop it, along with The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. (Some critics have described the film as an intriguing espionage tale, versus never-ending action.) The villainous Winter Soldier is played by Sebastian Stan.

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