American films

Black Panther has fifth highest debut ever at North American cinemas, and it’s a blockbuster in the true sense of the word

People lined up around the block outside North American cinemas to see first big-budget superhero film with a largely black cast, as anticipation, critical acclaim and its groundbreaking nature swept Black Panther into unexpected box office territory 

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 1:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 7:06pm

A wave of feverish anticipation, fawning critical acclaim and groundbreaking cultural meaning pushed Black Panther to a record-setting US$192 million debut in United States and Canada cinemas, firmly establishing the superhero sensation as a box-office landmark.

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The Marvel film from the Walt Disney Co. blew past expectations to become the fifth-highest-grossing debut ever, not adjusting for inflation, following only  Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last JediJurassic World and The Avengers.

This is the very definition of a blockbuster: people lining up around the block to see a great movie
Paul Dergarabedian

In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of US$218 million domestically and a global debut of US$361 million.

Though the film’s international footprint doesn’t include several of the largest markets – China, Russia and Japan – it still ranks among the top 15 global debuts ever. It’s also the highest-grossing February opening weekend.

“All hail the King of Wakanda!” Disney declared, referring to the movie’s mythical and highly advanced African nation.

Ryan Coogler’s film, which cost about US$200 million to make, is the most expensive movie with a largely black ensemble and among the few to be centred on a black superhero. The strong opening suggests Black Panther will easily set a box-office record for films directed by a black filmmaker.

The previous best is Sidney Poitier’s 1980 comedy Stir Crazy, which took in US$322 million domestically, when inflation is calculated.

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Black Panther set pre-sale records and saw lines around cinemas over the weekend, including some who came costumed for the event.

“This is the very definition of a blockbuster: people lining up around the block to see a great movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “A movie like Black Panther is a cultural event that nothing on the small screen can really match in that way.”

Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa/Black Panther in the first stand-alone film centred on the superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. The cast also features Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright.

The movie has been hugely acclaimed, with a 97 per cent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, giving it an A-plus CinemaScore. The film especially resonated among African-Americans, who made up 37 per cent of film-goers, according to comScore.

Dave Hollis, distribution chief for Disney, called the film’s success “a real source of pride” for Disney.

“Inclusion and representation matters,” Hollis said. “We know that great stories can come from anywhere, and our goal is to make films that reflect the wonderful diversity of our world and resonate with audiences everywhere – no matter who they are, no matter where they come from.”

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Coming at one of the slower periods of the year, Black Panther benefited from little competition, and it can be expected to dominate the marketplace for weeks.

Last week’s top film, the erotic romance sequel  Fifty Shades Freed , slid to third place, with US$16.9 million in its second week for Universal. Sony’s children’s book adaptation Peter Rabbit held much stronger, taking the No. 2 spot with US$17.3 million in its second week.

But film-goers – and Hollywood – were focused on Black Panther, including how it would fare overseas. Though considered by most to be an outdated myth, some have claimed that foreign audiences have less appetite for films with largely black casts.

Black Panther vanquished those notions with US$169 million in ticket sales. It was No. 1 in most international markets, though Fifty Shades Freed bested it in Germany.

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Its release in China will come later, though it is out in Hong Kong already. Over the Chinese New Year holiday, local productions led by Detective Chinatown 2 and Monster Hunt 2 dominated the box office in China, with more than US$140 million in ticket sales each (Film market research firm EntGroup reported Monster Hunt 2’s box office takings as the equivalent of US$198.2 million in its first three days in Chinese cinemas).

Black Panther also performed especially well on large-format screens. IMAX reported US$30 million in ticket sales for the three-day weekend.

“There was a groundswell of wanting this movie to work, and then when it actually did as a film, itself, it just kicked it up a notch to a level no one could have ever predicted,” said Greg Foster, IMAX Entertainment’s chief executive. “That makes me feel really good about the movie business.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday to Sunday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to comScore:

1. Black Panther, US$192 million (US$169 million international).

2. Peter Rabbit, US$17.3 million.

3. Fifty Shades Freed, US$16.9 million (US$47.7 million international).

4.  Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle , US$7.9 million (US$4.8 million international).

5. The 15:17 to Paris, US$7.7 million (US$2.8 million international).

6.  The Greatest Showman , US$5.1 million (US$9.6 million international).

7. Early Man, US$3.2 million (US$3.7 million international).

8.  Maze Runner: The Death Cure , US$2.5 million (US$11 million international).

9. Winchester, US$2.2 million.

10. Samson, US$2 million.

Estimated international ticket sales for Friday to Sunday (excluding the US and Canada), according to comScore:

1. Black Panther, US$169 million.

2. Detective Chinatown 2, US$155 million.

3. Monster Hunt 2, US$141 million (US$198.2 million according to EntGroup).

4. Operation Red Sea, US$70.3 million.

5.  The Monkey King 3 , US$52.3 million.

6. Fifty Shades Freed, US$47.7 million.

7. Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink, US$32.6 million.

8.  The Shape of Water , US$12.3 million.

9. Maze Runner: The Death Cure, US$11 million.

10. The Greatest Showman, US$9.6 million.