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Box Office: 'Captain America' strong-arms 'Harry Potter' [Updated]

July 24, 2011 |  9:24 am

Capt "Captain America: The First Avenger" proved its strength at the box office this weekend, facing off against the powerful force that is "Harry Potter" and coming out on top.

The 3-D film starring Chris Evans, which was the fourth and final big-budget superhero movie to be released this summer, collected a solid $65.8 million this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures.

Meanwhile, after grossing more in its worldwide opening last weekend than any film in history, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" saw its ticket sales tumble quite a bit. The movie made an additional $48.1 million this weekend, meaning receipts fell a sizable 72% from last weekend. The domestic total for the final "Potter" film now stands at $274.2 million.

The weekend's other new release, the sexy, R-rated comedy "Friends with Benefits," started off with a decent $18.5 million.

"Captain America" was produced by the Walt Disney Pictures-owned Marvel Entertainment for around $140 million but is being distributed by Paramount Pictures. That means Disney will receive the majority of the profits or incur any losses from the movie.

The film, about a weak military reject who is transformed into a superhero via a government program, had virtually the same opening weekend as another Paramount/Marvel production out earlier this summer -- "Thor." That movie, also based on a popular comic book hero, opened to $65.7 million in May.

Both films attracted slightly more men than women, as 64% of the audience for "Captain America" was male. But the crowd liked "Captain America" a little more than the film about the Norse god: Audiences assigned this weekend's release an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore, compared to Thor's B-plus grade. Paramount is hoping that means "Captain America" will hold up even better than "Thor," which saw ticket sales drop only 47% in its second weekend in theaters and has since grossed $445.8 million worldwide.

But audiences were more willing to pay higher ticket prices to see "Thor" in 3-D than they were for "Captain America." About 60% of the first weekend sales for "Thor" came from 3-D ticket receipts, compared with 40% for "Captain America." However, "Captain America" was not released in Imax theaters, which accounted for 10% of the 3-D sales for "Thor."

Overseas, "Captain America" opened only in Italy, where it took in $2.8 million. The film will roll out in 23 additional foreign markets this week.

Friends "Friends With Benefits," starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two buddies who decide to try for a sexual but nonromantic relationship, was produced by Sony's Screen Gems label for about $35 million. The movie appealed largely to women, as 62% of the crowd was female. Those who saw the film liked it, giving it an average grade of B-plus. 

While the movie is off to a good start at the box office, it still had a slightly lower opening than "No Strings Attached," a movie released in January with an extremely similar premise. That film, in which Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star as two buddies who sleep together and attempt to maintain their friendship, opened to $19.7 million. The film was also produced for a modest cost and went on to become a sleeper hit, grossing $147.8 million worldwide by the end of its run in theaters.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight debuted the science fiction love story "Another Earth" in four theaters, where it collected $78,413 for a good per-theater average of $19,600. The film, starring up-and-coming young actress/writer Brit Marling, premiered to positive buzz at the Sundance Film Festival this year. And another film in limited release, "Sarah's Key," had an even better opening weekend. The film, based on the bestselling book about a Parisian journalist and distributed by the Weinstein Co., grossed $117,045 from five theaters for a per-theater average of $23,409.

[Updated, 10:32 a.m. Sunday: "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" has officially become Paramount's highest-grossing film ever overseas, this weekend passing the half-billion mark abroad. Overseas, the film collected $62 million from 60 foreign markets, bringing its international total to $556.6 million. The movie debuted this weekend in China, where it had the biggest opening for an American film ever in the country with $40 million.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Captain America: The First Avenger" (Paramount/Marvel): Opened to $65.8 million. $2.8 million overseas in one foreign market.

2. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" (Warner Bros.): $48.1 million on its second weekend, down 72%. $121.3 million overseas in 59 foreign markets. Domestic total: $274.2 million. International total: $560.4 million.

3. "Friends with Benefits" (Sony): Opened to $18.5 million.

4. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Paramount): $12 million on its fourth weekend, down 44%. $62 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. Domestic total: $325.8 million. International total: $556.6 million.

5. "Horrible Bosses" (Warner Bros.): $11.7 million on its third weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $82.4 million.

6. "Zookeeper" (MGM/Sony): $8.7 million on its third weekend, down 29%. $9 million overseas in 35 foreign markets. Domestic total: $59.2 million. International total: $28.8 million.

7. "Cars 2" (Disney/Pixar): $5.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 32%. $17.7 million overseas in 31 foreign markets. Domestic total: $176.4 million. International total: $173.7 million.

8. "Winnie the Pooh" (Disney): $5.1 million on its second weekend, down 35%. Domestic total: $17.6 million.

9. "Bad Teacher" (Sony): $2.6 million on its fifth weekend, down 50%. $7.9 million overseas in 32 foreign markets. Domestic total: $94.3 million. International total: $70.2 million.

10. "Midnight in Paris" (Sony Pictures Classics): $1.9 million on its 10th weekend, up 1%. Domestic total: $48.9 million.]

-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photos, from top: Chris Evans stars in "Captain America: The First Avenger"; Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake star in "Friends with Benefits." Credits: Paramount Pictures; Screen Gems

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