Box Office: Friday Shows 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' Headed for Record $93 Million-Plus Debut

2:38 PM PST 04/04/2014 by Pamela McClintock

The Marvel and Disney tentpole is on course to score the top April opening of all time in North America; "Noah" and "Divergent" lead holdovers.

Fueled by a health dose of younger moviegoers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier should cross a rousing $93 million in its North American launch, marking another victory for Marvel Studios and parent company Disney, according to early returns. Some even wonder whether it could approach $100 million.

The $170 million tentpole -- which is kicking off the summer box office a month early -- is expected to score the top April opening of all time domestically, eclipsing the $86.2 million earned by Universal's Fast Five in late April 2011.

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Captain America 2 is projected to gross $37 or more on Friday, including $10.2 million earned Thursday night.

Thursday night's gross 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).

Overseas, the superhero 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.

The follow-up is certainly benefiting 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.

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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.

Elsewhere, Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic Noah is now projected to gross $21 million-plus in its second weekend, putting its domestic total at $76-million plus through Sunday. It should come in No. 2, unless it is overtaken the Divergent, which jumped the $100 mark in North America on Thursday.

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