Like its titular heroine, Disney's "Captain Marvel" is defying all expectations.
The highly anticipated film debuted well above analyst predictions of $125 million with $153 million in North American receipts, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. Well behind in second place this weekend was Universal's "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" added $14.7 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $119.7 million. In third, Lionsgate's "A Madea Family Funeral" added $12 million in its second weekend (a 55% drop) for a cumulative $45.9 million.
“Captain Marvel” scored the biggest opening weekend of 2019 by a landslide and the first over $100 million. Usually it takes more superheroes to assemble on screen to achieve that result. Only "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War," "Captain America: Civil War," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Iron Man 3" and "Marvel's The Avengers" have performed better among Marvel Cinematic Universe films in their opening weekends.
As far as origin stories, "Captain Marvel" is rivaled only by "Black Panther" ($202 million) and has already grossed $455 million globally. The film's $89.3-million China debut makes it the third highest MCU weekend ever there, behind only "Infinity War" and "Civil War."
"We couldn't be more excited for the results," said Disney's distribution chief Cathleen Taff. "The global box office has been a wonderful thing to wake up to this morning."
The film, which cost more than $175 million to make, stars Brie Larson as a Kree noble warrior hero tasked with saving the planet from an influx of invading Skrulls. Over the course of the journey she awakens to her powers and to the Earth identity she's forgotten.
"I think from a casting perspective, Brie completely embodies this narrative 'Captain Marvel,'" said Taff. "The lead up in 'Infinity War' before anyone's ever seen her to now, her origin story, to [the upcoming] 'Avengers: Endgame,' where you'll see what she can really do, is something that fans crave and want to see."
"Captain Marvel" is the third all-time highest grossing film released in March, preceded only by 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" ($166 million) and "Beauty and the Beast" ($175 million) in 2017. It also surpassed DC rival "Wonder Woman," which earned $103.2 million in June 2017.
The 21st film in the MCU, it is also the first Marvel picture with a solo female lead. Much like "Black Panther," the film comes at a time when moviegoers are clamoring for more diverse storytelling.
"Kevin Feige and the creative team at Marvel Studios have continued to push the envelope and recognize that the audiences around the world are from diverse experiences and perspectives," said Taff. "The great thing about the stories they tell is that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero and those are all things that are celebrated."
It also comes during a period when the box office was down 26% through last weekend compared with 2018. Last month was the worst February for theatrical releases since 2002. But with the release of this film and next month's "Avengers: Endgame," the box office will see a much-needed jolt.
"'Captain Marvel' proves the power of one movie to change the fortunes of the box office, particularly this early in the year when a massive infusion of superhero cash can make a huge difference to the bottom line," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Comscore. "The film was as much a cultural as cinematic event with Brie Larson the perfect choice to topline."
He added: "Now that the lousy first couple of months at the box office is in the rear view, it's time for the box office party to get started with 'Us’ (March 22), 'Dumbo' (March 29), 'Shazam!' and 'Pet Sematary' (both April 5) among others poised to capitalize on the momentum created by 'Captain Marvel' in the walk up to 'Avengers: Endgame' (April 26) which is going to rock the global box office with an assuredly monumental debut."
Rounding out the top five in fourth place, Warner Bros.' "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" added $3.8 million in its fifth weekend for a cumulative $97.1 million, and at No. 5, Fox's "Alita: Battle Angel" added $3.2 million in its fourth weekend for a cumulative $78.3 million.
The top 10 also included Universal’s Oscar-winning “Green Book” with $2.5 million for a cumulative $80.1 million, Warner Bros.’ “Isn’t It Romantic” ($2.4 million/$44.2 million), MGM’s “Fighting With My Family” ($2.19 million/$18.7 million), Focus Features’ “Greta” ($2.16 million/$8 million) and Neon’s documentary “Apollo 11” ($1.3 million/$3.8 million), which expanded to 405 screens after a one-week exclusive IMAX run.
In limited release, A24 opened “Gloria Bell,” starring Julianne Moore, in five locations with $154,775, a strong per-screen average of $30,955. The film earned a 98% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.