When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources. We’re counting down from No. 20 and will present the data en masse Monday.


THE FILM: Marvel makes its first of two showings here in the Top 10 most profitable films of 2014 (Guardians of the Galaxy is the other). It was the first film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, and it was loaded with stars from other Marvel franchises, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, to go along with Chris Evans. Usually, stars in sequels create a drain on profits. But this is Marvel, remember?

THE BOX SCORE: Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE BOTTOM LINE: This one came flying out of the gate and posted the biggest domestic opening weekend ever for an April release with $95 million. Our experts say that despite the influx of Avengers castmembers, gross was low if anything at all. Remember, Marvel got most participants to sign deals that gave the superhero factory as many as nine options with most actors. This is not to say they were paid chump change, but their paydays came after break even, when Marvel and Disney had recouped its costs. This film, which was a thrill to watch, behaved financially just the way a studio would hope for a sequel. It grossed $259.8M domestic, did $339.4M international and another $115.6M in China (though remember the split for all these films pale when dealing with the Chinese and Marvel only realized $28.9M). That’s a total of $714.8M.

That is nearly double the $370M grossed worldwide by Captain America: The First Avenger (released by Paramount), which grossed $176.7M domestic and $193.9M foreign. Domestic receipts were up by a healthy margin from the first film, but we credit international growth for the shield-wielding hero’s outsized success here. When all the calculations were made, Disney realized a net profit of $166.2M, with a Cash on Cash Return of 1.35. The next installment, the Russo Brothers-directed Captain America: Civil War, is supposed to bring Robert Downey Jr in his Iron-Man costume and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, along with the returning cast. And there is every expectation this next film–which picks up the storyline after The Avengers sequel–will feature the first appearance in a Marvel/Disney film of Spider-Man. There is every reason to believe the next Captain America installment will be the biggest yet.