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‘Captain Marvel’ Holds On Better Than Most Superhero Movies

Elsewhere in box office news, the original sci-fi effort ‘Captive State’ deserved better while documentaries continue record-breaking success.
Captain Marvel
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on March 18th, 2019

Last week, Captain Marvel made history with its successful debut, and the movie is still going higher, further, faster than most of its peers. While at home, the 21st Marvel Cinematic Universe installment came in 42nd place for best second-weekend attendance of all time (attendance: 7.5 million), compared to its spot in 28th place for best openings, worldwide it’s on pace to become another one of the biggest moneymakers of all time. Currently grossing more than $760 million globally, Captain Marvel has already passed the totals of The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Suicide Squad, Justice League, Man of Steel, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

In fact, along with that last one, a fellow MCU title, Captain Marvel has already shot past 10 installments of its own franchise. Or, half. The others that fall to the side mostly include the Phase 1 originals but also last year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. If that sequel’s lesser worldwide success seemed to indicate a female superhero in the title resulted in less of a draw for the brand, Captain Marvel is proving otherwise. Domestically, the new entry has already passed a third of the MCU titles, and there is a very good chance that it will exceed such recent installments as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Captain Marvel had the seventh best domestic debut attendance of the MCU. For its second weekend, it’s ranking the same, meaning that in the end, the movie should be #7 for the franchise, overtaking the first installment Iron Man. Maybe it’ll do even better if its legs continue to prove strong. Captain Marvel‘s attendance in its second weekend dropped only 55.7%, which is pretty good for a superhero movie. Not as good as Aquaman‘s 23.2%, which was even better than Spider-Man‘s 37.8%, which was better than Wonder Woman‘s 43.3%, which was better than Black Panther‘s 44.7%, but those are supreme rarities for this genre. As it turns out, Captain Marvel comes in 10th place for lowest drops of all MCU titles, as seen here:

Black Panther (2018): -44.7%
Thor (2011): -47.2%
Iron Man (2008): -48.1%
Doctor Strange (2016): -49.5%
The Avengers (2012): -50.3%
Thor: Ragnarok (2017): -53.5%
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): -55.3%
Avengers: Infinity War (2018): -55.5%
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): -55.5%
Captain Marvel (2019): -55.7%
Ant-Man (2015): -56.5%
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): -56.6%
Thor: The Dark World (2013): -57.3%
Iron Man 3 (2013): -58.4%
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): -59.4%
Iron Man 2 (2010): -59.4%
Captain America: Civil War (2016): -59.5%
The Incredible Hulk (2008): -60.1%
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): -60.7%
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018): -61.6%
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): -62.2%

The only other live-action superhero movies to have lower drops while on more than 3,000 screens are Batman Begins, The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Hancock, The Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United, and Glass. Considering how many superhero movies there are now, that’s a laudable place. The majority of these titles fall in the upper 50s and 60s. Man of Steel, for instance, dropped 64.6%. Elektra, the last movie led by a singular female superhero from Marvel Comics, dropped 69%. The worst ever for a release this size: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which dropped 70.7% following an okay opening that was still better than the original.

In other box office news this weekend, while Wonder Park and Five Feet Apart were no match for Captain Marvel, both overshot their respective expectations. But Captive State fell short. The political sci-fi thriller deserved much better. Press screenings were canceled all over ahead of its release, and Universal/Focus didn’t seem to push it much with advertising. It deserved better all around, including from critics who eventually saw it. On Friday, the first wave of reviews gave Captive State a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. I thought maybe the studio had made a mistake not screening it for us given the reception. But later in the weekend, as more reviews arrived online, its favor fell. Now it’s at 50% on the Tomatometer.

And sadly, audiences didn’t think much more of it. Moviegoers on opening night gave Captive State a terrible grade of ‘C-‘ via CinemaScore polling. Other audience user ratings (not that these can always be trusted) at such spots as IMDb and Fandango aren’t much better. But it’s not a bad movie, just maybe not what most people are looking for in an alien invasion flick. Director Ruper Wyatt again looks back to the ’70s for inspiration and delivers a nice little political thriller underneath the bigger idea involving a successful alien takeover and the resistance that has developed over the decade since the arrival. Our own Matthew Monagle hit the nail on the head comparing it to an Alan J. Pakula film.

Captive State is the latest original sci-fi movie to go up against Marvel movie in its second weekend and fared even worse than the debuts of Annihilation opposite Black Panther and Arrival against Doctor Strange. One of those became a Best Picture nominee. The other should have been but has at least achieved grown in appreciation since release. Captive State isn’t as good as either, but especially given its plot, it’s worth taking note of as another necessary attempt to take a piece of the market alongside if not totally in competition with the Disney and Marvel overlords. I don’t want to say you should go see Captive State just to make sure original sci-fi movies are made, but I will say I’m glad this one did get made and made as much as it did.

Meanwhile, a movie where we leave Earth and invade an uninhabited celestial object continues to be another sort of alternate programming hit. That’s right, Apollo 11 is still doing pretty darn good for consisting completely of 50-year-old footage, coming in at 12th place at the box office in its third weekend and passing the $5 million mark. As noted by AJ Schnack, a leader in the nonfiction film community, this is a milestone for documentaries, as it’s the eighth hit of this magnitude in the past year, since the release of RBG last May. As for the movie with the best per-screen average: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s The Mustang wins that honor with its $72 million opening weekend gross spread over just four theaters.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Captain Marvel – 7.5 million (29.3 million)
2. Wonder Park – 1.8 million (1.8 million)
3. Five Feet Apart – 1.5 million (1.5 million
4. How to Train Your Dragon 3 – 1 million (15 million)
5. A Madea Family Funeral – 0.9 million (6.5 million)
6. No Manches Frida 2 – 0.4 million (0.4 million)
7. Captive State – 0.3 million (0.3 million)
8. The LEGO Movie 2 – 0.24 million (11.2 million)
9. Alita: Battle Angel – 0.21 million (9.1 million)
10. Green Book – 0.1 million (9.1 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.