A little over a week from the domestic opening next Friday (about 30 countries open in the days before), Marvel and Disney’s “Black Panther” had a consensus gross estimate of around $150 million for its first weekend. And that was before its stellar initial reviews appeared.
The historical importance for the film – with Ryan Coogler directing, it is after “The Fate of the Furious” the second most expensive film directed by an African-American, and the first in among lucrative comic book universe adaptations.
The interest for the film seems intense, not only among African-American audiences (who are among the most frequent movie goers, with about a quarter of annual tickets bought – double their share of population). But any Marvel film, particularly one with a sense of original content and a new take on the comic universe is guaranteed a big opening. (Their three in 2017 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Thor: Ragnorak”- ranged in their initial weekends between $117 million and $146 million).
So $150 million or better would put it ahead of all but two openers last year (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”/$209 million and “Beauty and the Beast/$175 million), so that alone would make it stand out among recent releases.
The film is getting particular attention, similar to “Wonder Woman” last year from D.C. Comics as a breakthrough studio film. Similar to entrusting a major franchise title to a female director and lead character, “Black Panther” has an African-American director and a mostly black cast that centers of African cultures as the basis of its epic conflict.
Its anticipation comes in significant part because of anticipation among domestic African-American audiences looking for a story that relates more to them than other comic book and other epic tale films. But is also could – like the R-rated, more comic “Deadpool” two years ago and “Wonder Woman” with its female elements – gain across the board from its originality and fitting into the formula that often works. It takes the familiar but adds different elements to it, thus keeping mainstream appeal but also doing something unique and less familiar.
So expect a lot of claims and comparisons ahead. As always, a great as “Black Panther” likely does (and remember “Wonder Woman” opening just over $100 million was considered impressive) because these comparisons will be with unadjusted numbers, they will exaggerate the film’s box office achievement.
To get out front of this, but also set the stage for what $150 million or more would mean, here are are range of categories to put that figure up against. Remember, the numbers in all cases are based on ticket prices now, not at the time of the earlier films’ release. We’ll list three levels of potential gross, from a great $150 million then two higher should it explode beyond current early estimates.
What different opening levels would mean historically in adjusted numbers:
$150 million – #28 all time (between”Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2″ and “Iron Man 2”)
$175 million – #17 all time (between “The Hunger Games” and “The Hunger Games – Catching Fire”)
$200 million – #8 all time (between “Spider-Man 3” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2”)
— Most of the top openers have come this century even with adjusted prices and theaters have expanded to great numbers of available screens and seats and studios have pushed for ever wider theater counts. The earliest film to open to over $100 million adjusted was “Batman Returns” in 1992.
Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/REX/Shutterstock (5885759u)
OPENING WEEKENDS – COMIC BOOK ADAPTATION MOVIES
$150 million – #11 all time (between “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Iron Man 2”)
$175 million – #10 all time (between “Batman v Superman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”)
$200 million – #5 all time (between “Spider-Man 3” and “The Dark Knight Rises”)
— Comic book universe movies make up five of the top 10 openers ever, nine of the top 20, making them the most sure-fire initial interest films other than recent “Star Wars” films which are of course fewer in number (they rank #1, 4, and 20).
OPENING WEEKENDS – MARVEL COMICS ADAPTATIONS
$150 million – #8 all time (between “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Iron Man 2”)
$175 million – # 7 all time (between “Spider-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
$200 million – # 4 all time (between “Spider-Man 3” and “Iron Man 3”)
— With far more entries, Marvel leads D.C. Comics with seven films that opened over $150 million to three the latter.
ALL-TIME JANUARY-APRIL OPENERS
$150 million – #4 all time (between “Furious 7” and “Deadpool”)
$175 million – #3 all time (between “Batman v Superman” and “Hunger Games”)
$200 million – # 1 all time
— “Beauty and the Beast” last year is #2 on the list
ALL TIME FEBRUARY OPENERS
$150 million – $1 all time
— At $142 million to will top “Deadpool,” also a February release, for biggest opening earlier than March.
At $150 million, “Black Panther” would rank as a very strong though of course not record opener, except for the time of year (historically, because of universe school openings on Friday and other factors including bigger non-movie competition – in its case, the second weekend of the Winter Olympics).
But its achievement among black directed and/or lead or co-lead actor releases will make history at a much lower level. Indeed, its performance is likely to far beyond any similar film ever.
Here are some of the previous high end achievements:
The only black-directed film to open over $100 million is F. Gary Gray’s “Furious 7” at $101 million last year. That’s #86 overall among opening weekends.
Second best is Tim Story’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” with $77 million. “Scary Movie,” directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans with $72 million, currently is third. So even if “Black Panther” grosses far less than expected, it should easily set this record.
Ryan Coogler’s own “Creed” grossed $47 million its first five days (it debuted the day before Thanksgiving) on its way to a $116 million total.
“Black Panther,” with Chaswick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N’yonga, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker among the major characters, has by far the most black ensemble cast ever among movies anticipated to appeal to all movie audiences, both domestic and foreign.
“Straight Outta Brooklyn” (also directed by F. Gary Gray) is the biggest grossing film (again as with all figures here adjusted to current ticket prices) with a largely black cast in top roles at $177 million. It opened to $67 million and held on achieve great domestic success. With its $28 million budget, its foreign returns of only a quarter as much as it did at home didn’t prevent it from becoming a big success for all involved. The difference for “Black Panther” is that is is estimated to come with a $200 million pre-marketing price tag and needs to perform strongly overseas among audiences often resistant to black casts.
Other movies have achieved success, including over $100 million totals, with leads like Sidney Poitier (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), Eddie Murphy (led by “Beverly Hills Cop”), Will Smith (from “Independence Day” to “Suicide Squad”) and more recently Dwayne Johnson (who actually seems to have more international appeal). But none has ever reached out to a core black story, although one grounded in mythic terms and less related to contemporary America than most earlier successes.