A red-white-and-blue-clad superhero will dominate the box office this weekend, with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" poised to score the biggest debut of 2014 thus far.
The latest effort from Disney's Marvel Studios is likely to generate $90 million or more in ticket sales through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
"The Winter Soldier," the $170-million 3-D sequel to 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger," has all the makings of a successful tentpole, including positive reviews from most publications. It should be the latest hit in a strong run from the comic-book-branded studio that made last year's second-highest-grossing film, "Iron Man 3," and 2012's biggest box-office hit, "The Avengers."
The most recent Marvel Studios offering, last year's "Thor: The Dark World," launched with $86 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend and ended up with more than $200 million domestically.
Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo directed "The Winter Soldier," which also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford.
The record for the year's biggest bow is currently held by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures for their "The Lego Movie," which hit theaters in February and grossed $69 million in its first weekend. The well-received 3-D animated comedy has gone on to pull in nearly $250 million domestically.
"The Winter Soldier" could also break the record for the biggest April debut ever, not adjusting for inflation. To do so, it would need to outperform 2011's "Fast Five," part of the long-running "Fast and the Furious" series, which had a first weekend gross of more than $86 million.
But it will certainly smash the opening weekend of the first "Captain America," distributed by Paramount Pictures in 2011, which took in $65 million in its first three days and went on to gross $177 million in its full run in the U.S. and Canada.
"Winter Soldier" is already proving to be a formidable draw overseas. It took off in 32 markets last week -- including Britain, South Korea, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Taiwan -- to gross $75 million. It will expand to more nations -- including Russia, Australia and China -- this weekend.
No films will brave a wide-release against "Winter Soldier." The question is, will last week's No. 1 movie, "Noah," sink or swim?
The $130-million biblical saga could gross about $20 million to $25 million Friday through Sunday for a second-place finish, after sailing away with $44 million last weekend.
The long-anticipated Old Testament epic from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises has built its domestic total to more than $50 million, and taken in another $50 million outside the U.S.
The second week of "Noah" could be bolstered by favorable reviews and word-of-mouth interest. Reactions from moviegoers have been mixed, indicated by a grade of C from the polling firm CinemaScore, as the Scripture adaptation has drawn strong but divided opinions from people of faith and religious leaders.