April Preview (Part 1): 'Captain America,' 'Rio 2,' 'Draft Day'
April is historically one of the slowest months of the year at the box office: the current record is 2011's $793 million, which puts it ahead of only September ($604 million) and October ($693 million).

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier poised to do blockbuster business, this April should be comparatively strong. If Rio 2 and at least one other contender (Transcendence, Heaven Is For Real) can also do solid numbers, April 2014 should at least come close to record levels.

April 4

Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes over the first weekend of April, which is a full month ahead of Marvel's typical Summer kick-off date. So far, this looks like a smart decision: the Captain is dominating the conversation right now, and is going to get four weekends without any serious competition.

Winter Soldier is the third follow-up to 2012's The Avengers, which seems to have broadened the appeal of this particular group of superheroes. At the domestic box office, Iron Man 3 improved 31 percent over its predecessor, while Thor: The Dark World was up a more modest 14 percent.

Compared to the Thor sequel, Captain America has a more interesting story, a stronger release date, and better reviews (currently over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Therefore, look for Captain America to more closely mirror Iron Man 3's pattern, which would put it at around $230 million total.

Unfortunately, Captain America probably won't play as well overseas: it would be surprising if the movie matched The Dark World's $438 million.

April 11

On the second weekend of April, Captain America: The Winter Soldier will battle newcomer Rio 2 for first place.

The first Rio opened in April 2011, and wound up with a solid $143.6 million. The movie was much more impressive overseas, where it earned $341 million. The sequel brings back all of the characters from the first movie, and also adds a few big names (Bruno Mars, Kristen Chenoweth) to the musical ensemble.

While marketing doesn't do a great job differentiating the sequel, it does at least promise plenty of laughs (always good for an animated movie). Without any serious competition, a final total in line with the first movie's $143.6 million wouldn't be surprising.

The other two releases on April 11th are both fairly modest. Draft Day looks like a football version of Moneyball, but without the prestige factor or the A-list star (Kevin Costner isn't Brad Pitt). Still, early word is solid, and Summit's marketing campaign is doing a nice job reaching out directly to diehard sports fans. A performance in line with 2008's Leatherheads ($12.7 million debut, $31.4 million total) seems like a reasonable expectation.

Oculus is the first of two supernatural horror movies opening in April. The typically strong genre hasn't produced a hit in a while—Paramount Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil's Due combined for less than $50 million—and early reviews for the movie are positive.

Oculus also has horror heavyweight Jason Blum on board as executive producer, and is leveraging his brand in some of the marketing. Blum can't guarantee a movie's success, though, as proved by last February's Dark Skies ($17.4 million). Similar to Dark Skies, Oculus feels like a movie that checks off lots of boxes, but isn't quite unique enough to connect with audiences.

See Part 2 for a look at 'Transcendence,' 'The Other Woman,' 'The Quiet Ones' & More >>

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