Box Office Preview: Can 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' Fly Past $90 Million in North American Launch?

UPDATED: Last weekend, the well-reviewed Marvel sequel opened to a superhero-like $75.2 million in its first 32 markets -- 88 percent ahead of the first "Captain America;" its foreign total through Tuesday was $87.4 million.

Marvel Studios and Disney are looking at another post-Avengers victory with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has a strong shot of crossing $90 million in its North American debut this weekend and claiming the top April opening of all time. Some even wonder whether it could near $100 million.

Anything above $80 million or $85 million would be a rousing number for the sequel. 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 the fortunes rise for the Iron Man and Thor franchises (Thor: The Dark World opened to $85.7 million last November). The same is expected for The Winter Soldier, particularly since it is receiving stellar reviews.

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To date, Universal's Fast Five, opening in 2011, sports the top April opening of all time ($86.2 million), not accounting for inflation.

Last weekend, Winter Soldier opened to a dazzling $75.2 million internationally from 32 markets -- an 88 percent gain from the $40 million earned in the same suite of markets by the the original Captain America. Winter Soldier continues rolling out overseas this week, opening in Russia and Australia on Thursday and in China on Friday. It's not inconceivable that the movie's worldwide gross could approach $250 million by Sunday. Through Tuesday, the film's foreign total was $87.4 million.

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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Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo directed Winter Soldier and have already signed a deal to to head-up the third installment in the Captain America series. Marvel and Disney are so high on the untitled threequel that they are sticking to a May 6, 2016, release date, even though that's when the untitled Superman/Batman tentpole is slotted to open.

Box office observers say Winter Soldier has several advantages over the first Captain America, which took in a solid $370.6 million worldwide. That film was a period piece, while the follow-up is set in modern day.

No other movie dared to open opposite Winter Soldier in North America this weekend. Among holdovers, the big question will be how well Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic Noah holds up.

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