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What Hollywood can learn from the international success of ‘Captain America: Civil War’

The latest film from the Marvel cinematic universe has already earned massively at the box office without even opening in the U.S., raising questions on how Hollywood should handle its marquee releases.

A week before it hit U.S. theaters, "Captain America: Civil War" grossed some $200.4 million internationally in 37 territories in its opening weekend, outpacing many of its predecessors from the Marvel movie franchise.

The world's fifth top-grossing film ever, "Marvel's The Avengers" saw an opening weekend of $185.1 million internationally, according to figures by Box Office Mojo. In contrast, 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" made a total gross of $263.4 million globally during its time in theaters.

"Captain America: Civil War" expects to have a massive debut.
Source: Marvel | YouTube
"Captain America: Civil War" expects to have a massive debut.

"Civil War's" international debut pushed it in to the top 15 of all-time international opening weekends, coming in just shy of "Avengers: Age of Ultron", which accumulated $201.2 million for its international debut in 2015.

According to Daniel Loria, senior overseas analyst for BoxOffice Pro, the film was released earlier in Europe to benefit from a holiday weekend in several non-U.S. markets.

"Overseas grosses usually represent the bulk of a film's global gross with big event titles like this one. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' made around [two thirds] of their business in foreign markets," Loria told CNBC via email.

"It's become normal to see these big studio titles open overseas first."

However, Augie De Blieck Jr, a columnist for website Comic Book Resources, didn't think it mattered where a film is released first.

"Honestly, when it's released internationally first, I don't think most of the domestic movie-goers even know or notice it," he told CNBC via email. "The question of where a movie opens first seems largely driven by movie studio politics and funding reasons, rather than marketing issues."

Part of the film's success can be attributed to a highly successful social media campaign, including asking fans to choose a side with the hashtags #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan.

"This film has developed a great, engaging social media campaign," said Loria. "Positive reviews helped drive word of mouth a couple of weeks ago, and now that overseas have already seen it we'll start seeing more buzz on social media."

"Captain America: Civil War" is the 13th entry in the Marvel movie canon, but De Blieck doesn't expect the studio's fortunes to change.

"The Marvel movie machine has always had its ups and downs," he said. "Not every movie has been perfect, though I'm sure they've all made money. I think it will continue on that way for a while -- with lots of good movies paving the way for the occasional ridiculous blockbuster."

"Captain America: Civil War" opens in U.S. theaters – as well as in China, India, Canada and more – on May 6, where it is expected to make as much as $200 million in its opening weekend. To receive the crown for best opening weekend domestically from the Marvel cinematic universe franchise, it has to top the impressive figure of $207.4 million, from "Marvel's The Avengers" which nonetheless pales against "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and its opening weekend tally of $248 million.

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-- With contribution from CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs