Box Office Report: 'Captain America' Plants Its Flag Atop the Heap on Friday

12:43 AM PST 07/23/2011 by Gregg Kilday
Susie Allnutt/Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

"Harry Potter" continues its record-setting run, while "Friends with Benefits" aims to be the ultimate no strings attached rom-com.

Captain America: The First Avenger was busy waving the red-white-and-blue at the North American box office on Friday as Paramount’s release of the latest Marvel Studios superhero movie looked headed for an estimated $25 million-plus opening day.

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That number, which includes the $4 million worth of ticket sales that the movie rang up at midnight, puts it on track to claim the number one spot for the weekend, with its main competitor, Warner’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, posting a solid second-place showing of about $16 million. Potter, which has already collected $226.1 million domestically in just its first seven days of release, should retain its number one standing in the foreign arena, though, since Captain America is rolling out more slowly overseas.

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Meanwhile, the weekend’s other new release, Sony/Screen Gems’ R-rated rom-com Friends with Benefits appears to be shaping up as a credible alternative to the surrounding superheroes and wizards. The movie, directed by Will Gluck and starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, is heading for a first day take of about $7 million.

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If moviegoers are tiring of superheroes, though, you wouldn’t know it by the performance of Captain America. The movie, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, an unassuming guy who is transformed into a super-hero who takes on Hitler’s henchman Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving, posted the best midnight opening of this summer’s other superhero outings  -- Thor, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern. And while Paramount was originally predicting that America would debut with an opening weekend about midway between X-Men’s $55.1 million and Thor’s $65 million, there’s now the possibility it could equal or surpass Thor’s debut since that movie opened to a $25.5 million Friday back in May.

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Potter, fueled by huge want-to-see for the final film in the series, looks as if it now has a $50 million weekend in its sights, which would put its domestic ten-day gross above $275 million. That would be significantly ahead of the $219.1 million that the last film in the series collected during its first ten days back in November, and Hallows, Part 1 ultimately went on to gross $295 million domestically, a total that Hallows, Part 2 should beat handily.

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As for Friends, the suspense this weekend will be over whether it can ultimately hit the $20-million plus mark, which would put it ahead of the similarly-themed No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, from Paramount and Spyglass, which opened to a $7.3 million Friday and a $19.7 million weekend earlier this year.

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