Captain America Winter Soldier Widescreen

Captain America: The Winter Soldier seems destined to be among 2014's box office leaders. Sources: Marvel Entertainment, Facebook.

Get ready for a three-peat, Marvel fans. Judging by today's numbers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is on track to be tops at the 2014 box office.

Think what that might mean. Marvel's The Avengers ruled the 2012 box office with a $1.5 billion haul. Iron Man 3 tops this year's charts. A similar win for Winter Soldier would secure Marvel's status as a top-tier Hollywood hitmaker and cement Bob Iger's legacy among the best CEOs in Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) history.

But are the numbers really that good? I'll admit the process is subjective. First, I scoured the 2014 release schedule and singled out likely losers. I then picked what I expect to be the top 10 earners among the wide-release films that remained and organized them by social popularity. Here are the results:

Facebook Likes
Twitter Followers
YouTube Trailer Views
Rotten Tomatoes Followers

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

9.1 million


23.4 million

85,672 want to see it

X-Men: Days of Future Past

9.5 million


22 million

79,065 want to see it

The Hobbit: There and Back Again

3.9 million


No trailer as of this writing

75,006 want to see it

Transformers: Age of Extinction

27 million


Trailer due to air during Super Bowl

74,165 want to see it

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

6.9 million


21.6 million

67,753 want to see it

How to Train Your Dragon 2

5.1 million


6.9 million

61,761 want to see it

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -  Part 1

12.2 million


No trailer as of this writing

57,057 want to see it

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes



First trailer due on Dec. 18

35,912 want to see it

Rio 2

5.3 million



30,130 want to see it

Guardians of the Galaxy


No official account

No trailer as of this writing

23,204 want to see it

Sources: Facebook, Rotten Tomatoes, Twitter, YouTube.

Winter Soldier ranks highest on Rotten Tomatoes, where more than 85,000 users say they want to see the movie. There are 23.4 million views of its trailer on YouTube while more than 9.1 million "like" Cap on Facebook. I'd expect all these totals to grow exponentially when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next year with episodes that tease a movie tie-in.

But can we really trust social data as a predictor of financial success? Research by Adobe Systems finds that movies which experience "social buzz" ahead of release tend to outperform at the box office. Winter Soldier already looks like that sort of film.

So does The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Just look at the millions of views for each movie's trailer. That's no doubt great news for Sony (NYSE:SNE), which is producing a fast-growing family of Spidey films, and 21st Century Fox, which is building its own interconnected version of the Marvel Universe starring the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Disney, meanwhile, gets to collect producer fees for Fox's X-Men films and merchandise sales tied to Sony's Spider-Man productions.

Several other studios also stand to cash in next year. Time Warner gets the third installment in The Hobbit series, which started off earning $1 billion and could get close to that again with the just-released sequel, The Desolation of Smaug. DreamWorks Animation gets another shot at a blockbuster in How to Train Your Dragon 2 while Lions Gate goes for $1 billion with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.

Still, I like Marvel in the 2014 box office race. Why? Even if Winter Soldier isn't next year's biggest film, or Guardians of the Galaxy fails (here's why I think it won't), Marvel has never brought four buzzworthy  properties to screen in a single year. That changes in 2014, and Disney investors should be better off for it.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What is your pick for the top movie of 2014? Which Marvel movie do you expect to do best? Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what you think.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney and Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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