Captain America: The First Avenger

Sorry, British wizards. It's time for an all-American hero to reign at the box office.

'Captain America: The First Avenger' opened at No. 1 with an estimated $65.8 million, dethroning 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2' and beating fellow Marvel flick 'Thor' by a hair for bragging rights to the biggest superhero movie debut of the summer. In its second week, 'Potter' plunged 72 percent to an estimated $48.1 million, still a weekend take that most movies would kill for.

A close race was expected this weekend between the 'Avengers' franchise launcher and the 'Potter' franchise farewell. Both movies were expected to earn anywhere from $50 to $65 million, with a lot of variables in play. Both films are playing in 2D and 3D versions, both are riding strong waves of promotional hype and positive word-of-mouth and both seem to have all-ages appeal. Plus, a sharp drop-off for 'Potter' was inevitable after last week's multiple record-breaking opening, while anticipation for 'Captain America' has been building for at least three years.
In the end, 'Captain America' slightly exceeded expectations; its $65.8 million take is just barely ahead of the $65.7 million that 'Thor' earned during its first weekend a couple months ago. According to Paramount, it did even better among an older audience (after all, the comic has been around for decades), attracting a crowd whose over-25 share was 58 percent.

In contrast, 'Potter' fell much further than expected. Still, $48.1 million is nothing to complain about, and neither is a 10-day total of $274.2 million, nor a worldwide total that's approaching $1 billion.

Opening in third place was 'Friends With Benefits,' which scored an estimated $18.5 million. That's a respectable number, considering that the similar 'No Strings Attached' (which opened with $19.7 million) was in theaters just a few months ago, or that it was competing for older audiences with 'Captain America' and 'Harry Potter,' or that two other R-rated comedies ('Horrible Bosses' and 'Bad Teacher') are still in the top 10, or that neither Justin Timberlake nor Mila Kunis is a proven box office draw.

'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' was fourth, with an estimated $12.0 million. That's down 44 percent from last week. The robot saga's four-week total is $325.8 million, so it's still far and away the top-grossing movie of the year to date.

'Horrible Bosses' was just a shade behind 'Transformers,' earning an estimated $11.7 million, good for fifth place. It saw a third-week decline of just 34 percent. In 17 days, it's earned $82.4 million.

Box office for the year is still down 6 percent ($385.5 million) from this time in 2010. Still, box office for July is up almost 4 percent ($39.4 million) from this time last July. A few more weeks like the last two, and 2011 may finally pull ahead of 2010.

UPDATE: Final figures released Monday give 'Captain America' a slightly lower total of $65.1 million. So 'Thor' still boasts the biggest superhero debut of the summer, just barely.

'Captain America: The First Avenger' - Trailer No. 3


The full top 10 (revised final figures):
1. 'Captain America: The First Avenger,' $65.1 million (3,715 screens), new release
2. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,' $47.4 million (4,375), $273.5 million total
3. 'Friends With Benefits,' $18.6 million (2,926), new release
4. 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' $12.0 million (3,375), $325.8 million
5. 'Horrible Bosses,' $11.9 million (3,104), $82.6 million
6. 'Zookeeper,' $8.7 million (3,215), $59.2 million
7. 'Cars 2,' $5.7 million (2,668), $176.4 million
8. 'Winnie the Pooh,' $5.2 million (2,405), $17.6 million
9. 'Bad Teacher,' $2.6 million (2,034), $94.4 million
10. 'Midnight in Paris,' $1.8 million (621), $44.7 million

Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.
Captain America: The First Avenger
PG-132011
Based on 43 critics

An experimental program turns Steve Rogers into the supersoldier known as Captain America. Read More

Friends With Benefits
R2011
Based on 37 critics

Complications unfold when two friends (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis) add sex to their relationship. Read More