Box office preview: How high will Marvel's 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' fly?

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Image Credit: Zade Rosenthal

Comic book season is upon us, and there’s no turning back.

Disney and Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the (lucky?) first one out of the gates. As has become standard for Marvel releases, the question is not whether it will open at No. 1 (there aren’t even any other movies opening wide this weekend!), but just where it will fall on the golden brand’s sliding scale of successes and super-successes. Modern Marvel cinematic universe adaptations have opened anywhere from $65 million (Captain America: The First Avenger) to $207 million (The Avengers).

Here’s how things might play out, and let us know your predictions in the comments.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier — $95 million
Disney and Marvel’s follow-up to 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger pits Cap (Chris Evans) against an ever-growing conspiracy and the Winter Soldier in a post-Avengers reality. Opening wide in 3,938 theaters (including IMAX 3-D, regular old 3-D, and 2-D), analysts think that the $170 million adventure will open in the $85 million-plus range, and looks poised to top the $85.7 million debut of Thor: The Dark World this past November. Promotion has been enthusiastic, buzz is high, and reviews are very positive too. Owen Gleiberman gave the film a B+ and wrote: “The film is too long, and its token ­references to the other Avengers are just a forced attempt to join it to a ‘larger’ story. Yet Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the zing and purpose that last summer’s Man of Steel lacked, with a sky-high climax that’s a real dazzler.” Internationally, the PG-13 pic has already stacked up $75 million from 32 territories and will expand in Russia, Australia, and China in the coming days.

2. Noah – $26 million
After its expectation-exceeding debut (but lukewarm post-viewing audience responses), Paramount’s experimental biblical epic Noah will likely drop in the 40 percent range. The Russell Crowe-starrer seems to appeal to an older audience, suggesting that its second week fall won’t be as steep.

3. Divergent – $12 million
Lionsgate and Summit’s new franchise has been falling steadily since its debut two weekends ago and looks poised to drop another 50-plus percent this weekend. The $85 million YA adaptation had made an estimated $99.5 million domestically as of April 2. It’s a career high for Shailene Woodley and could help boost awareness for The Fault in Our Stars, which hits theaters June 6.

4. Muppets Most Wanted – $7 million
The Muppets may have had a less-than-stellar debut, but families do still seem to be turning out for the PG-rated comedy. It dropped only 33 percent in its second weekend in theaters and could have a similar fall this weekend, as it provides a family friendly alternative to the violent Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

5. Mr. Peabody & Sherman – $6 million
DreamWorks Animation’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman is also chugging along, though its $96.3 million domestic take is still lagging below the $145 million budget after four weekends in theaters. The pic has made an estimated $219 million worldwide.

There are also a host of releases in the specialty box office world, including the Halle Berry drama Frankie & Alice from Lionsgate’s Codeblack Films, which hits 166 theaters. Fox Searchlight will platform Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law, in four theaters, and CBS films is showing the horror pic Afflicted in 44 theaters.

Check back in to EW.com this weekend for estimates and analysis.

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