Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” blew past expectations in its opening weekend, but that may not be its most impressive performance. The four-day total was $244 million, but what’s happened since Presidents’ Day tells us the movie could “The Avengers” to become the top-grossing comic book movie in North America.
(Please note: We’re only discussing domestic gross here. While its foreign performance thus far is strong, there’s still multiple international openings to come.)
Tuesday was the most impressive day yet
“Black Panther” grossed $20.8 million on Tuesday. Outside of summer releases and Christmas week, the only film that’s done better on a Tuesday was the pre-Christmas “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” That’s better than “The Avengers” in early May, and “Avatar” and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kings,” also just before Christmas. Better than the first Tuesday for 2017’s top two releases, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (pre-Christmas) and “Beauty and the Beast” (a spring vacation week for many).
By comparison, it’s hard to find a Tuesday more ordinary than the one that belongs to “Black Panther”: mid February, late winter, school’s in session. However, “Black Panther” ticket sales comprised more than 75 percent of the day’s box office.
The power of Wednesday
On Wednesday, its sixth day of release, “Black Panther” grossed $14.5 million. That’s down 30 percent from Tuesday, which is normal; most Tuesdays have elevated grosses thanks to discount pricing. Using the same point of comparison (outside summer and not adjacent to Christmas or Thanksgiving), it’s the best day six in box-office history. In second place is last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” ($11.5 million), which was aided by some spring vacations.
Generally, Thursday’s gross falls slightly below Wednesday. Expect about $13.5 million, which would bring the first week’s total to $290 million. That’s $15 million behind “The Avengers,” which had an adjusted first week total of $305 million.
What the second weekend looks like
For most films that open strong, second weekends tend to earn between six and eight times their Thursday gross. On that basis, we can project somewhere between $81 million and $107 million.
However, for films that open really well — like “Black Panther” — they usually drop a little more. We’re deep into speculative numbers here, but we’ll take a middle guess and say it makes $94.5 million in its second weekend. That would leave “Black Panther” at $383.5 million after 10 days.
The path to greatness
It’s reasonable to expect “Black Panther” to double its 10-day domestic total by the end of its run. At $383 million, that would be $766 million, putting it among the top 25 grossing domestic films of all time.
Based on adjusted pricing, that’s bigger than “Jurassic World,” “The Godfather,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Forrest Gump.” It would be a bigger hit than the most successful James Bond, “Goldfinger.”
Most of all, that would place “Black Panther” ahead of every single comic-book movie. “The Avengers” stands at $706 million (adjusted), followed by “The Dark Knight” ($684 million) and “Spider-Man” ($638 million). Those are the only two above $600 million, a level that “Black Panther” seems certain to reach.
A lot of numbers are needed to continue the pattern seen so far, but that leaves “Black Panther,” even if the numbers after day six fall short, with a $60 million cushion to outpace “The Avengers.”
There’s a long way to go, but it’s certain to gross at least $500 million, likely to gross $600 million, and possibly over $700 million.