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'Captain America' sequel shatters records with $96.2-million debut

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Superhero sequel "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" soared in its opening weekend to a record-breaking $96.2 million in North America and a worldwide total to date of $303.3 million.

The $170-million 3-D film, starring Chris Evans as the shield-bearing superhero and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, is the top April opening of all time and more successful than its 2011 predecessor, "Captain America: The First Avenger," which made $65 million domestically in its first three days.

The sequel, directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, generated just over $207 million in its first 10 days overseas.

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"The response has been fantastic," said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution. "Coming out in April and setting a record is truly a great thing."

Next weekend, the film will open in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and Trinidad. It opens in Japan on April 19.

The film, which opened in 3,938 locations in the U.S., had an A on CinemaScore and 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience consisted mostly of men (64%), people 25 and older (57%) and couples (58%).

Hollis partly attributed the film's success to its universal storyline.

"There's a contemporary feel with the overall story," he said. "It's not just an action movie but a character story."

In its second weekend, director Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic "Noah" fell 61% to the No. 2 spot, generating an estimated $17 million in ticket sales. "Noah" has now earned more than $72 million.

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The long-anticipated Old Testament epic from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises received a C from the polling firm CinemaScore and has drawn strong but divided opinions from people of faith and religious leaders.

In third place was "Divergent," which generated $13 million, bringing its estimated cumulative total to more than $114 million.

Based on a young adult novel series, the Lionsgate film, directed by Neil Burger and starring Shailene Woodley, tells the story of a young woman fighting for freedom and survival in a dystopian society. "Insurgent," the film's sequel, is scheduled to begin filming in May and will be released next March.

"God's Not Dead," screening in 1,758 theaters in the U.S., moved up to No. 4, making $7.7 million in its third weekend and an estimated total of $32.5 million.

The faith-based film, about a college student defending his beliefs against a professor, features Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, the popular Christian rock group Newsboys, and Willie and Korie Robertson from the "Duck Dynasty" television show as themselves.

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Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel" rounded the top five, with $6.3 million in ticket sales in its fifth week.

"We have now increased our theater count to 1,263 locations and are planning to add more theaters again this coming week," Frank Rodriguez, Fox Searchlight's head of distribution, said in an email. "We are surprised each weekend at how broad the response is for this terrific comedy with the stellar cast."

Also noteworthy in the U.S. top 10: "Muppets Most Wanted" fell 44% to finish sixth with $6.3 million; "Need for Speed" hung in at ninth with $1.84 million; and at No. 10, "Non-Stop," in its sixth week, generated about $1.83 million.

saba.hamedy@latimes.com

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