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Movie Projector: 'Captain America' takes on final 'Potter' film for No. 1

July 21, 2011 | 12:52 pm

"Captain America: The First Avenger," the last of four superhero movies to hit theaters this summer, is hoping its shield will be powerful enough to fend off the all-mighty force that is "Harry Potter."

After "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" grossed more in its worldwide opening last weekend than any film in history, it's clear that the level of interest in the film is tremendous, with about $215 million in domestic ticket sales. But because so many fans rushed out to see the movie immediately, it's unclear just how big the drop off in receipts will be during its second weekend in release particulary with the new 3-D entry "Captain America" opening against it.

"Captain America," starring Chris Evans as a scrawny guy who is later transformed into a superhero through a secret government program, is expected to collect a similar number of ticket sales as "Potter" -- about $60 million -- putting the two films in a tight race for the weekend's No. 1 spot.

Meanwhile, the other new film in wide release, the R-rated comedy "Friends With Benefits" with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, will probably open at about $20 million.

"Captain America" is being distributed by Paramount Pictures but was financed for about $140 million by Marvel Entertainment, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co. That means Disney will receive the majority of the profits or incur any losses from the film's performance.

The film, which is generating strong interest among men, opened Thursday at one theater in San Diego near the Comic-Con International convention in an effort to generate buzz among comic book fans. While the movie is in 3-D, it may not benefit much from ticket surcharges, as audiences have been largely underwhelmed by the number of films released in the format this summer with the exception of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

The studios behind "Captain America" are hoping that the film will perform like "Thor," another Paramount/Marvel production that opened to $65.7 million in May. That 3-D film, also based on a comic book and starring a hunky leading man, went on to collect a respectable $444.6 million worldwide.

Overseas, "Captain America" is being released only in Italy this weekend, followed by 23 foreign markets in two weeks.

Friends "Friends With Benefits," a sexy romp about two buddies who decide to sleep together, is the latest sex-filled comedy to be released this summer -- a genre that has resonated with audiences in recent months.

The film was produced by Sony's Screen Gems label for about $35 million, meaning that if projections are correct, the movie should be off to a solid start this weekend.

In January, another movie with a similar premise, "No Strings Attached," proved to be a sleeper hit after opening to $19.7 million. The film, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman as two friends who try (and fail) to have a sexual but non-romantic relationship, cost about $25 million to produce and ultimately grossed $147.8 million worldwide.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight will open the sci-fi love story "Another Earth" in two theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles. Headlined by new It-girl Brit Marling, the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to positive reviews.

Meanwhile, the Weinstein Co. will open "Sarah's Key," a drama based on the bestselling book about a Parisian journalist, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, in two theaters in New York and three in Los Angeles.


'Captain America' will try to win over the world

Movie review: 'Captain America: The First Avenger'

Last 'Harry Potter' film breaks box-office record for most tickets sold in a single day

-- Amy Kaufman

Top photo: Chris Evans stars in "Captain America: The First Avenger." Credit: Paramount.

Bottom photo: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis star in "Friends With Benefits." Credit: Sony.