LOS ANGELES -- Like its titular heroine, Disney's Captain Marvel is defying all expectations.
The highly anticipated film debuted well above analyst predictions of $125 million, with $153 million in North America, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. Well behind in second place over the weekend was Universal's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, which added $14.7 million in its third weekend. In third, Lionsgate's A Madea Family Funeral added $12.1 million in its second weekend (a 55 percent drop).
Captain Marvel scored the biggest opening weekend of 2019 by a landslide and the first over $100 million. Usually, it takes more superheroes to assemble on-screen to achieve that result. Only Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers have performed better among Marvel Cinematic Universe films in their opening weekends.
As far as origin stories, Captain Marvel is rivaled only by Black Panther ($202 million) and has already grossed $455 million globally. Its $89.3 million China debut makes it the third-highest Marvel weekend ever there, behind only Infinity War and Civil War.
"We couldn't be more excited for the results," said Disney's distribution chief, Cathleen Taff. "The global box office has been a wonderful thing to wake up to this morning."
The movie, which cost more than $175 million to make, stars Brie Larson as a Kree noble warrior hero tasked with saving the planet from an influx of invading Skrulls. Over the course of the journey, she awakens to her powers and to the Earth identity she's forgotten.
"I think from a casting perspective, Brie completely embodies this narrative Captain Marvel," Taff said. "The lead-up in Infinity War before anyone's ever seen her to now, her origin story, to Avengers: Endgame, where you'll see what she can really do, is something that fans crave and want to see."
"She definitely pushed us higher, further, faster," Taff said.
It's the sixth largest worldwide debut ever. The only movie with a female lead that's opened better globally was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which grossed $529 million when it debuted in 2015.
Captain Marvel is the third-all-time-highest-grossing film released in March, preceded only by 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166 million) and Beauty and the Beast ($175 million) in 2017. It also surpassed DC's Wonder Woman, which earned $103.2 million in June 2017.
The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is also the first Marvel picture with a solo female lead. Much like Black Panther, it comes at a time when moviegoers are clamoring for more diverse storytelling.
"Kevin Feige and the creative team at Marvel Studios have continued to push the envelope and recognize that the audiences around the world are from diverse experiences and perspectives," Taff said. "The great thing about the stories they tell is that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero and those are all things that are celebrated."
It also comes at a time when the box office had been down 26 percent through last weekend compared with 2018. Last month was the worst February for theatrical releases since 2002. But with the release of this film and next month's Avengers: Endgame, the box office will see a much-needed jolt.
"Captain Marvel proves the power of one movie to change the fortunes of the box office, particularly this early in the year, when a massive infusion of superhero cash can make a huge difference to the bottom line," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Comscore. "The film was as much a cultural as cinematic event, with Brie Larson the perfect choice to topline.
"Now that the lousy first couple of months at the box office is in the rear-view, it's time for the box office party to get started with Us (March 22), Dumbo (March 29), Shazam! and Pet Sematary (April 5) among others poised to capitalize on the momentum created by Captain Marvel in the walk-up to Avengers: Endgame (April 26), which is going to rock the global box office with an assuredly monumental debut."
Rounding out the top five in fourth place, Warner Bros.' The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part added $3.8 million, and at No. 5, Fox's Alita: Battle Angel added $3.2 million.
The top 10 also included Universal's Oscar-winning Green Book with $2.5 million, Warner Bros.' Isn't It Romantic ($2.4 million), MGM's Fighting With My Family ($2.2 million), Focus Features' Greta ($2.2 million) and Neon's documentary Apollo 11 ($1.3 million), which expanded to 405 screens after a one-week exclusive IMAX run.
In limited release, A24 opened Gloria Bell, starring Julianne Moore, in five locations with $154,775, a strong per-screen average of $30,955. The film earned a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"The box office year of 2019 officially started this weekend," Dergarabedian said. "We're going to have one of the biggest box-office years ever but looking at the first two months, you wouldn't know it."
Captain Marvel scared away any new wide releases. Vincent D'Onofrio's directorial debut, The Kid, was largely overlooked by moviegoers. It sold $505,000 of tickets in 268 theaters.
Opening this weekend, but not expected to challenge Captain Marvel for No. 1, are Paramount's animated Wonder Park, Lionsgate's teen romance Five Feet Apart and the sci-fi thriller Captive State from Focus Features.
MovieStyle on 03/15/2019
Print Headline: Captain Marvel makes superhero box office debut