Captain America shoots to record box-office debut

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Captain America: The Winter Soldier shot straight to the top of North America's box office in its debut weekend - and scored the biggest April opening of all time, figures showed on Monday.

The superhero saga from Disney's Marvel Studios, starring Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, pulled in a hefty US$95 million (S$119.7 million), box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations said.

The critically praised movie has made US$207 million outside the United States, for a global take so far of US$303.3 million, it said.

The 3-D, US$170-million sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger is also the biggest debut so far this year, outearning the previous box office winner The Lego Movie, which in February grossed US$69 million in its first weekend.

Buoyed by its record opening, Marvel meanwhile announced that the third Captain America instalment will be released on May 6, 2016.

That announcement sets up a clash of the comic-book titans, as rival studio giant Warner Bros have pencilled in the same date for the release of their so far-untitled Superman-Batman movie.

The Warner Bros movie project started life as a sequel to last year's Man Of Steel, a reboot of the Superman franchise directed by Zack Snyder with Briton Henry Cavill in the title role.

But it is now set to bring in the caped crusader in a superhero mash-up, a formula which has had repeated success in recent years.

Before then, fans of comic-book movie characters can look forward to another helping of Captain America along with Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron, set for May 1, 2015.

The Avengers, to which next year's movie is a sequel, scored the biggest domestic weekend debut of all time in May 2012 with a staggering US$207.4 million in ticket sales.

This weekend, meanwhile, biblical epic Noah sank to second place in its second weekend, with US$17 million in ticket sales. The action drama, reuniting Russell Crowe with Jennifer Connelly, his co-star from 2001's A Beautiful Mind, topped the box office on its debut last weekend.

In third place, with US$13 million, was teen adventure Divergent, the dystopian tale of a young woman in a futuristic society, based on the popular young adult novel of the same name.

Religiously themed God's Not Dead, which tells the story of a college freshman who debates his atheist philosophy professor, climbed one spot to fourth place with US$7.7 million.

In fifth was Muppets Most Wanted, Kermit and company's latest outing, which raked in US$6.15 million.

It was closely trailed by Wes Anderson's quirky The Grand Budapest Hotel, which earned US$6.12 million for sixth place.

The musical comedy caper was ahead of Mr Peabody And Sherman, based on characters from the 1960s television cartoon Rocky And Bullwinkle, which earned US$5.1 million.

Action flick Sabotage, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Worthington was in eighth spot with a whisker under US$2 million.

Car-chase action movie Need For Speed moved down one spot on the box-office grid, in ninth place with US$1.8 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was Non-Stop, the Liam Neeson action movie set on a long-haul flight, which added another US$1.79 million to its earnings.