Disney-Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" eked out a small lead over Fox's "Rio 2" at the Friday box office. The superhero pic looks to win the weekend in this year's second three-peat (after "The Lego Movie").
The "Captain America" sequel earned $9.6 million, just over the animated movie's $9.2 million, which should keep growing as kids hit theaters over the Easter weekend.
Warner Bros.' new entry "Transcendence" was no match for the epic battle of the sequels, the second tightest race of the year following last weekend's close showdown. The Johnny Depp-starrer came in at a disappointing fourth place with $4.8 million, making it the actor's fourth flop in a row. Another newcomer, Sony's "Heaven Is for Real" exceeded expectations by rising to $7.9 million.
With a cume of $176.7 million, "The Winter Soldier" overlapped its predecessor, "The First Avenger," which hauled in $176.6 million domestically in its lifetime. It only took 15 days to reach the milestone, which has become the norm for Marvel sequels following the yet-unbeatable success of "The Avengers" two years ago.
"Captain America" is on track to pass the $200 million mark by Sunday when it could add an estimated $24 million-plus to its cume.
"Rio 2" looks to benefit from the holiday timeframe with many children still on spring break. It's headed toward a $23 million second frame, which would raise its cume to $76 million. The 3D comedy opened to $39.3 million last weekend, slightly edging out the $39.2 million launch of the original pic.
Meanwhile, "Transcendence" is headed for a disappointing $12 million-plus weekend opening. The sci-fi thriller, which reportedly cost $100 million to produce, is likely suffering from poor reviews (pic currently has a 19% Rotten Tomatoes meter). "Transcendence" could, however, make up for the loss overseas, where Depp has a strong fanbase.
The movie about a scientist whose consciousness is uploaded to a computer marks the latest Stateside dud for Depp. Aside from Disney's mega-successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise (commanded more than $3.7 billion worldwide), the chameleonic actor's most recent films have bombed domestically. "The Lone Ranger" earned $89 million Stateside, with a total worldwide gross of $261 million -- only $45 million more than its production budget. His previous two movies, "Dark Shadows" and indie "The Rum Diary," drew cumes of $80 million and $13 million, respectively.
Depp could redeem himself with his upcoming films, which include Rob Marshall's fairytale screen mashup "Into the Woods," the "Alice in Wonderland" sequel "Through the Looking Glass" and of course, the latest "Pirates" installment, 2016′s "Dead Men Tell No Tales."
However, Friday was good to this year's latest faith-based offering, "Heaven Is for Real." The Christian drama was the best opener of the weekend, surprising with $7.9 million Friday and on track for an estimated five-day cume of $27 million. The Greg Kinnear-starrer kicked off the Easter weekend early on Wednesday with an opening-day gross of $3.7 million. "Heaven" took in an additional $3.3 million Thursday from 2,417 locations.
Sony looks to be meeting its goal of matching the success of Todd Burpo's 2010 global bestseller, which the film is based on, as the account of Burpo's then-4-year-old son's near-death experience not only had a religious core, but also mass appeal. The audience skews female (62% female versus 38% male) with about half of theatergoers under 35.
The studio has not only cashed in on the booming business of religious films, but has hit the jackpot. Although it didn't match the debut of Paramount's "Noah," "Heaven" cost just $12 million to produce.
It did beat Hollywood's last religious release, Freestyle Releasing's "God's Not Dead," which opened to $9 million at only 780 locations. However, Fox's "Son of God," the first of this year's large slate of religious-themed wide releases, debuted to a higher gross in late February with $25.6 million.
"God's Not Dead," which reeled in $1.7 million, came in tenth on Friday. It will probably land in 11th place in its fifth weekend with $3.8 million, while "Noah" likely cracks into the top ten by Sunday.
Another newcomer and sequel, Open Road's "A Haunted House 2" rounded out Friday's top five with $4 million. The Marlon Wayans-starring comedy spoof is on track for $10 million. The first "Haunted House" opened to a more impressive $18 million last year and went on to earn $40 million Stateside.
Disney's wildlife documentary "Bears" also opened on Friday to $2.3 million.