In the tightest race of the year and the first major battle of the sequels, Fox-Blue Sky Studios’ “Rio 2” flew past Disney-Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” at the Friday box office.

The lighthearted family toon grossed $12 million, edging out the politically-infused superhero pic’s $11.9 million Stateside haul. “Rio 2,” which brought in $375,000 from Thursday night shows, also looks to dominate in the weekend box office. It’s on track for $44 million, versus the “Captain America” sequel’s $41 million. Distributors had expected the opposite turnout leading into the weekend and had underestimated the earning potential of both movies.

“Rio 2” is coming in strong for a family film considering the fact that theater-goers usually skew older on Fridays, an advantage for “Captain America.” There will likely be a spike in attendance on Saturday and the movie looks to bring in strong earnings next weekend when the number of schoolchildren on spring break doubles from 10 to 20%.

The film exceeded its predecessor, which earned $10.2 million on Friday in April 2011. The 3D animated movie is also on track to pass the total Stateside weekend gross of the original movie (an Oscar nominee), which debuted to $39.3 million and went on to haul almost $485 million worldwide ($144 Stateside).

The comedy has already commanded about $60 million in a dozen overseas markets such as Brazil (the film is set in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro), Germany, Russia, Spain and the U.K. It expanded to 55 international territories over the weekend, including China and Mexico.

The family film from Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha (A CinemaScore), which cost $103 million to produce, is voiced by Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Jesse Eisenberg and Bruno Mars, among other big names. It’s showing in 3,948 locations.

“Winter Soldier” obliterated the competition last weekend when it opened to $95 million, making it the largest domestic debut ever in April. It also topped the original “Captain America,” which launched to $65 million three years ago. “The First Avenger” ultimately earned almost $371 million worldwide (about $177 million Stateside).

The Marvel wonder had grossed $117.6 million domestically ahead of the weekend, on course for a $155 million Stateside cume. “Winter Soldier” is showing impressive hold with a projected weekend-to-weekend drop of 57%, on par with the first two “Iron Man” films, matching “Thor: The Dark World” and ahead of “The First Avenger,” which declined by 61% in its second frame to $25 million.

Newcomers “Oculus” (C Cinemascore) and “Draft Day” (B+ Cinemascore) round out Friday’s top spots.

Relativity-Blumhouse Productions’ horror movie “Oculus” scared away Lionsgate’s football pic “Draft Day” with $4.9 million. Made with less than $5 million by Intrepid Pictures, “Oculus” generated $475,000 from Thursday night shows. The supernatural scarer directed by Mike Flanagan, and starring Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites could finish with $12-13 million thanks to younger theater-goers likely under 25. It’s playing in 2,648 theaters.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s “Draft Day” reeled in $3.6 million on Friday, on track to earn $10.5 million by Sunday. The adult male-targeted movie about the NFL Draft stars Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. Ivan Reitman’s drama is showing in 2,781 locations.

Lionsgate’s “Divergent” landed in fifth with $2.4 million on its fourth weekend. The sci-fi adventure starring Shailene Woodley will likely make $7.4 million this weekend, raising its domestic cume to an estimated $125 million.

Lionsgate announced on Friday that it will split the final book in author Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy, “Allegiant,” into two films à la “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.”