What do the Captain America: Civil War Box Office Numbers Really Mean?

What does Captain America: Civil War’s opening weekend box office mean, and where does it stand in the battle of the superhero movies?

Ever since they were both announced, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War have been vying to be declared the winner in the ongoing war between Marvel and DC.

Warner Bros. and DC were the first to announce their superhero face-off in July 2013, and after the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel decided to go a similar route by announcing in October 2014 that Captain America would face his friend Iron Man in the next installment. At one point, both movies were scheduled for the same early May release, commonly thought of as the first weekend of summer, but Warner Bros. decided that director Zack Snyder had opened enough big movies in March to move Batman v Superman to the earlier Easter weekend.

There’s little doubt on which movie was preferred by critics and moviegoers with Batman v Superman trying to overcome an awful 27 percent on RottenTomatoes and not-great “B” CinemaScore, compared to the 92 percent positive reviews for Civil War and “A” CinemaScore going into its opening weekend.But how did the two movies end up doing at the box office?

A few weeks back, I predicted that Civil War would open with between $195 and $205 million based on early reactions and hype, but it didn’t quite fare that well.

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Civil War took in an estimated $25 million in Thursday previews compared to Batman v Superman’s $27.7 million, which already was more than Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron last year. It went on to gross an estimated $75.2 million on Friday (including Thursday previews), which is also less than Batman v Superman’s $81.6 million Friday and Avengers: Age of Ultron’s $84.4 million, but more than Iron Man 3’s $68.8 million.

According to estimates, it will gross $179.14 million its first weekend, which ends up well ahead of Batman v Superman’s weekend take of $166 million, although you have to remember that the latter opened on Easter and would be more frontloaded to its Friday.

While Civil War looks to be the third highest-opening Marvel Studios movie after Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, what’s more important is what happens in the weeks to come—and Civil War will likely do better than a number of its caped peers.

So far, Batman v Superman has grossed $327 million and amazingly, that is only the third highest grossing movie of the year so far behind Deadpool and Zootopia, which both have crossed the $350 million mark. (If you read my earlier piece about Batman v Superman, you might remember that I expected that to also end up closer to the $350 million grossed of those movies.)

This isn’t great for Batman v Superman, especially since it probably won’t be able to cross the $1 billion mark worldwide either. While it probably will break even, it won’t be nearly as profitable as hoped for by Warner Bros.

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I have no doubt that Civil War will probably make and cross the $350 million mark, and will probably end up closer to $500 million, because the word-of-mouth is just so much better and many moviegoers are already going to see it two or three times just like other Disney-released movies this year. It also has the entire summer to make that money, which is one of the greatest benefits of releasing a movie in early May.

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But it’s all about that word-of-mouth, and so far it’s almost overwhelmingly positive. If Civil War didn’t have that going for it, it might end up like Spider-Man 3 or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, neither of which grossed more than 2.2 times their opening weekend box office take.

By comparison, last year’s summer kickoff, Avengers: Age of Ultron, grossed $459 million domestically after opening with $191.2 million; it then enjoyed a 2.4 multiplier. Meanwhile, Marvel’s The Avengers grossed three times its opening weekend in 2012, going on to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time with $623.3 million. Only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World have grossed more since that movie opened, but using the same three times multiplier as Avengers, Civil War would end up with $540 million.

Civil War shouldn’t have any problem being #1 again at the box office next weekend with very little new competition. It might have a harder time the week after that but still could come out ahead of the three new movies released on May 20, and then Memorial Day weekend, it has more direct competition from Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

Either way, it’s likely to win its battle with Batman v Superman and continue Marvel Studios’ string of successful superhero movies, building even more anticipation to next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming  (Sony’s attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the character in Civil War) and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War (or whatever it ends up being called).

May 15 UPDATE: With Captain America: Civil War grossing an estimated $72.5 million in its second week, a drop of 59.4 percent from its opening weekend, we can probably have a further gauge of how it might do overall. That drop is almost identical to that of Avengers: Age of Ultrolast year, which is odd only because Civil War seemed to be getting much better reviews and buzz after opening. So far, Civil War has grossed $296 million in North America, compared to the $313 million of Age of Ultron, so it’s still falling behind last year’s Marvel hit.

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If Civil War maintains Age of Ultron’s drop-off from week to week, it’s likely to end up with $430 million domestically, although it has a lot of competition for audiences in the coming weeks. Age of Ultron dropped 50 percent in its third weekend against Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Roadboth of which opened over $45 million. And we can expect the trio of Neighbors 2The Angry Birds Movie, and The Nice Guys to offer a similar amount of competition for Civil War. A 50 percent drop next weekend would give Civil War $37.5 million over the three days, which could put it in second or third place behind two of Friday’s releases. Even before then, it will still be Disney’s third $300 million movie of the year after Zootopia and The Jungle Book with at least two more movies of theirs possibly hitting that benchmark by year’s end (Finding Dory and Rogue One).