It’s easy to get lost in box office numbers. With all the various special screenings, early night showings, and midnight showings, sometimes it’s difficult to compare apples to apples on opening night screenings.
When Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuted to a $10.2 million opening night, many were quick to point out that it beat the $9 million in late night screenings that Man of Steel took in. Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline all made reference to this Captain America opening night victory, and we even included a reference to this little trivia fact in our initial report.
Of course with Captain America 3 set to go up against the Man of Steel follow-up Batman Vs. Superman, Captain America beating Superman’s opening night quickly went from trivia fact to a blazing headline across the Internet.
The only problem is that it’s not exactly true. As one of our readers quickly pointed out, sites like Box Office Mojo list Man of Steel’s Thursday total as $12 million, which is more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s $10.2 million. So what’s going on with the $9 million number being touted in the trade press?
Well, technically, it’s accurate from the standpoint that Man of Steel brought in $9 million from late night screenings. However, Walmart sold tickets to a special early screening of Man Of Steel that took place at 7 PM on Thursday. The total ticket sales from the Walmart screening were $12 million, which is the number that shows up for Thursday on some sites.
So what should the true opening night total of Man of Steel be? Do the Walmart screenings count? An argument could be made both ways. The Walmart tickets were a bulk ticket purchase, where Walmart bought and resold the tickets. It may or may not reflect how many people ultimately bought those tickets from Walmart and showed up for the screening.
However, if Walmart didn’t have its early 7 PM screening, then it’s for virtually for certain the late night screenings would have had a much higher total. When most in the entertainment press initially reported Man of Steel’s opening night, the midnight ticket sales and the Walmart sales were combined to report a $21 million opening night.
The Walmart ticket sales were also included in most opening weekend reports for Man of Steel, bringing the film’s total opening weekend to $128 million. Even without the Walmart screenings, Man of Steel had a $116 million opening weekend, which is higher than most are projecting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The $116 million number was also enough to set a record for best June opening weekend ever at the U.S. box office.
Of course, the Man of Steel had the advantage of opening in the summer, when kids are out of school. One could argue that Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s opening night total would have been much higher if it had opened during a summer month. As it stands now, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is on pace to have the best April opening weekend ever at the U.S. box office, which is pretty good whether the film really beat Man of Steel or not.