Chris Evans stars as the patriotic superhero in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

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"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" proves Marvel knows what audiences want

The movie grossed an estimated $96.2 million in its opening weekend

That's 48 percent higher than 2011's "Captain America" debut

It's also higher than some stand-alone Marvel character debuts, like the "Thor" movies

EW  — 

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is yet another piece of evidence that Marvel’s formula for its behemoth superhero film franchise is exactly what audiences want.

The sequel to the 2011 original starring Chris Evans as the Super Soldier grossed an estimated $96.2 million this opening weekend, setting a record for best April opening and earning an “A” CinemaScore from its audiences.

Its opening is all the more impressive when you consider that, while it falls beneath “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” and “2,” it outranks many of the stand-alone Marvel character debuts, including both “Thor” films and the original “Captain America,” which it out-grossed by 48 percent. (It nabbed an additional $110 million from audiences overseas.)

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And while it’s not surprising that more men than women showed up to watch the latest episode from Marvel’s team of superheroes, more couples were in the audience than families, with the majority of the audience between 18-49.

“Noah’s” audience was eclipsed dramatically by “Captain America,” and it had the drop to prove it. The Darren Aronofsky-directed biblical tale fell a steep 61 percent this weekend with $17 million, putting its new total at $72.3 million. With a budget of at least $125 million, it’s going to be tough for this controversial tale to end up in the green.

That certainly won’t be the case for the YA hit “Divergent” from Summit Entertainment. Actress Shailene Woodley and Co. are now members of the $100 million club, with the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel grossing $13 million this three-day period, a 49 percent drop that puts its domestic earnings at $114 million.

“God’s Not Dead” continues to surprise at the box office. The Freestyle Releasing film about one Christian college student’s quest to defend his faith grossed an additional $7.7 million with 580 more theaters added to its release. Now in its third weekend in theaters, the film from director Harold Cronk stands with an impressive $33 million to its name.

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Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” rounds out the top five this weekend, earning $6.3 million for a total of $33.4 million. From Fox Searchlight, the dark comedy starring Ralph Fiennes as an octogenarian-loving hotel concierge is performing well in its wide release. Whether it can outgross Anderson’s most commercially successful films “Moonrise Kingdom” ($45 million) and “The Royal Tenenbaums” ($52 million) remains to be seen.

Scarlett Johansson had a busy weekend at the box office, co-starring in “Captain America” and headlining the R-rated indie from writer/director Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin.” The film, which opened in four locations in New York and Los Angeles, earned an estimated $140,000 for a per-screen average of $35,000. It was a far better outcome then Halle Berry experienced in this three-day frame.

Though EW originally reviewed her “Frankie & Alice” back in 2010 as part of its one-week Oscar-qualifying run, the film languished on the shelves, only receiving its first theatrical release this weekend. Unfortunately, the delay did little to improve its box office odds, with the difficult drama earning $118,000 in 117 locations.

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Also on the tepid side of the box office this frame was Diego Luna’s “Cesar Chavez.” While the actor-turned-director was hoping his earnest drama about the famed Mexican-American labor organizer would be the next “Instructions Not Included,” the Spanish-language comedy that earned $44 million last summer, it’s proving not to be. Instead, in its second weekend of release it grossed $2.8 million, a steep 66 percent off its opening weekend numbers. The small-budgeted movie’s gross stands at $4.6 million.

Jude Law’s “Dom Hemingway” also had a difficult time in its initial opening despite generating largely positive reviews, including an “A” from EW’s Owen Gleiberman. From Fox Searchlight, the story of a larger-than-life safecracker recently released from prison only nabbed $32,000 in its debut for a weak per-screen average of $8,000.

Below is the box office top five. Check back in next weekend, when the animated sequel “Rio 2” opens against Kevin Costner in “Draft Day.”

1. “Captain America” – $96.2 million

2. “Noah” – $17 million, cume $72.3 million

3. “Divergent” – $13 million, cume $114 million

4. “God’s Not Dead” – $7.7 million, cume $32.5 million

5. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – $6.3 million, $33.4 million

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