'Captain America: Civil War' wins box office – did positive reviews help?

The newest Marvel film, 'Captain America: Civil War,' had a big opening weekend, grossing more than $181 million domestically. Some of the other Marvel movies with great opening weekends such as 2012's 'The Avengers' were also liked by critics.

'Captain America: Civil War' stars (from l.) Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen

Marvel’s newest film “Captain America: Civil War” easily came in first at the box office over the May 6 weekend, with the movie now holding the record for the fifth-best opening at the domestic box office ever. 

“Captain,” which stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and many more, grossed more than $181 million in its US opening weekend. Not only did paying moviegoers flock to the film but it also received mostly positive reviews from critics. 

The film had already opened overseas, an increasingly common strategy, and has so far grossed more than $678 million when international revenues are taken into account. 

The other films at the box office, most of which were holdovers from previous weekends, were far below “Captain.” Disney’s latest live-action adaption of one of its animated movies, "The Jungle Book," came in second, grossing more than $21 million domestically, while the Garry Marshall comedy “Mother’s Day” came in third, grossing 9 million, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, the Snow White film “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” placed fourth, grossing more than $3 million, and the Key & Peele comedy ‘Keanu” came in fifth, grossing more than $3 million as well. 

In terms of best debuts of all time, “Captain” is below the 2012 box office smash “The Avengers” and 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” 

After “Ultron,” Marvel’s other movie last summer was “Ant-Man,” which did well financially ($519 million worldwide) by normal box office standards but was among the studio’s lesser-grossing films. “Ant-Man” also got more mixed reviews than, for example, “Captain America: Civil War.” 

So far, some of Marvel’s best openings have been for films that were also well-received critically, suggesting these reviews could be a factor. For example, 2012’s “The Avengers” got better reviews than “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and had a bigger opening weekend. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave “Avengers” a B grade, while he awarded “Ultron” a B-, calling “Ultron” “semi-enjoyable but not as good.”  Rainer gave “Captain America: Civil War” a B-.

However, simple anticipation can provide a big box office opening even if reviews aren’t as stellar. While “Ultron” didn’t get as positive reviews as "The Avengers" or “Captain America: Civil War,” it still has one of the best opening weekends of all time. Audience members were perhaps remembering 2012’s “The Avengers” fondly and wanted to check out the second chapter even if reviews weren’t as good as they were for the first.

Why did the “Avengers” movies and “Captain America: Civil War” sell more tickets than any other Marvel movies for their opening weekends? MTV writer Ryan J. Downey writes that when it came to the 2012 “Avengers” movies, bringing multiple superheroes together seemed to help its financial results. Both “Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War” also feature many heroes. “When it comes to superhero team-ups, it looks like the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts,” Mr. Downey wrote.

Opening weekends aside, the fact that “Captain America: Civil War” has gotten more positive reviews than either of the “Avengers” movies may mean it has a long life at the box office, as noted by Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press.

“Audiences … gave the film a promising ‘A’ CinemaScore, which should bode well for the film's longevity,” Ms. Bahr writes. “…Great reviews and word of mouth will surely distinguish ‘Civil War’ from ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ which, by comparison, opened to $166 million in late March but fell sharply over the subsequent weekends.”

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