Marvel’s superhero Captain America and his latest film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier – now showing in Hong Kong cinemas – topped the United States box office over the Easter weekend for the third week in a row.
However, actor Johnny Depp – looking for a big hit after starring in last summer’s misfiring The Lone Ranger – did not have such a happy time at US and Canadian cinemas on Friday and Saturday.
His new film, the science-fiction thriller Transcendence – which opens here in Hong Kong on May 8 – could manage only a disappointing fourth place.
The Winter Soldier sees Chris Evans back as Steve Rogers – a second world war army reject with super powers - battling a Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier; it had ticket sales of US$26.6 million at North American cinemas over the first two days.
This latest superhero hit from Disney’s Marvel Studios has already earned US$586 million around the world, including US$200 million in the US; it has validated the studio’s strategy of introducing more films featuring Marvel Comics superheroes.
“This is historic brand building that Marvel is executing with Disney,” said Phil Contrino, chief analyst at film website Boxoffice.com.
“Since the release of The Avengers, we’re seeing this trickle-down effect where every movie that comes out after is benefiting from it. With another Avengers coming out, that will increase.”
Marvel’s The Avengers generated US$1.52 billion in global ticket sales in 2012, making it the third-highest grossing movie of all time.
The Winter Soldier pushed animated film Rio 2, about a family of blue parrots, into second place with takings of US$22.5 million.
The English-language version of Rio 2 features the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway as blue Spix macaw birds, and follows recent animated hits such as the Oscar-winning Frozen and The Lego Movie.
Heaven Is for Real, based on a best-selling Christian book about a boy who claims to have witnessed heaven, was a strong third with $21.5 million over the first two days of the holiday weekend.
It stars Greg Kinnear as a father who must support his young son after he glimpses the afterlife while undergoing emergency surgery. The film, which cost only about US$12 million to make, and has gained favourable reviews, and was tipped to earn at least US28.5 million after Sunday’s cinema takings were included.
“This result is really terrific and far exceeded our expectations,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of worldwide distribution. He said the film was “playing well across the board, appealing not only to a faith-based audience but to a more mainstream one”.
Transcendence sees Depp play scientist - an artificial intelligence researcher - whose consciousness is digitally preserved after he is mortally wounded.
It marks the directorial debut for long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister, who won the 2010 Academy Award for his work on Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception.
With a budget of US$100 million, it had been expected to open with ticket sales of US$21 million, but managed only US$11.2 million, said the Box Office Mojo website.
“Unfortunately, the movie just missed the audience,” said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president for theatrical distribution at Warner Bros, which distributed the film.
Transcendence was also savaged by critics, with only 20 per cent of 134 reviewers giving it a positive rating, said the RottenTomatoes website, which assesses reviews.
“Transcendence is a dark, lurchingly entertaining pastiche of age-old worries, future-shock jolts, hot-button topics and old-fashioned genre thrills,” wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.
Contrino said: “Transcendence had very disappointing results. People want stories that grab them and, for whatever reason, people just weren’t excited to see this movie. You can’t say that just because Johnny Depp is in a movie, it’s a guaranteed success.”
A Haunted House 2 – a horror comedy starring Marlon Wayans – was fifth with ticket sales of US$9.1 million.