Could another superhero movie bring blockbuster bucks for studios?
On Friday, Walt Disney (DIS) and Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War flies into North American theaters, and some are projecting a massive opening, one that could rival the biggest-ever Marvel opening: 2012’s The Avengers. The latter opened to $207.4 million in domestic box office gross—the most ever for a Marvel Studios film and more than the $191 million pulled in by last year’s sequel, according to Box Office Mojo.
Already, on Thursday, Captain America: Civil War had a 93% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and industry analysts predict that Civil War could approach Avengers-level opening numbers, with estimates at $190 million and $200 million, according to Deadline.
And, that’s all despite the fact that it isn’t (technically) an Avengers movie. The new film may be billed as the third standalone movie for the Captain America character, but the plot picks up after the events of the Avengers: Age of Ultron and it features nearly all of the same characters from the previous films, along with a few new ones (Black Panther! Spider-Man!) making their Disney/Marvel film debuts. In other words, Civil War follows a similar formula as the Avengers movies—they’re all chock full of superheroes—and is sequel in spirit.
Civil War had a massive overseas opening last weekend, when the movie took in more than $200 million outside the U.S.—and that’s without China, the world’s second-largest movie market after the U.S. (and growing), where the movie also opens this weekend. What’s more, the movie just set a record among superhero films for advance ticket sales, according to online ticket service Fandango, driven partly by a great critical reception, so far.
Fans are also excited about the introduction of the Black Panther and Spider-Man characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (A now-expired deal kept the film rights to Spider-Man with Sony (SNE) for five previous films.) Civil War is also the first film from the Third Phase in Disney’s ambitious slate of planned movies based on Marvel Comics characters—a plan that will see the studio release no fewer than nine more Marvel movies before 2020. That makes this movie, where infighting among the Avengers has Captain America go head-to-head with Iron Man, required viewing for moviegoers hoping to keep up with a host of dovetailing plots throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the next few years.
This weekend, Disney and Marvel will find out if they have a new champion on their hands, but the movie is at least extremely likely to post the biggest opening of 2016, so far. The excitement over Civil War already seems to be erasing the memory of March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which pulled in $166 million its first weekend for Warner Bros. (TWX) despite toxic reviews that eventually caught up to the movie, as its performance suffered during subsequent weekends in theaters.
Dawn of Justice is an important part of Warner’s own stacked superhero agenda, which will rely on superhero team-ups from the realm of DC Comics characters. If Captain America: Civil War blasts past the Caped Crusader and Clark Kent, Warner may end up looking at its superhero rivals for lessons in box office domination.