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‘Black Panther’ Conquered the Box Office With $242 Million Opening

The latest Marvel offering broke records all around as it shot past expectations. 
By  · Published on February 19th, 2018

The latest Marvel offering broke records all around as it shot past expectations.

Box office hype is exciting when you’re talking about a movie everyone loves. Black Panther is the most acclaimed comic book-based superhero movie of all time, landing higher than The Dark Knight and Iron Man and matching Pixar’s original The Incredibles with a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes (it’s also the best superhero adaptation according to Metacritic with an 88 score, but it falls below the 90 score of The Incredibles).

And its CinemaScore grade, based on moviegoer polling on opening night, is an ‘A+’, putting it alongside The Avengers as only the second Marvel movie to achieve such a mark (and alongside 42 as star Chadwick Boseman‘s second perfect grade and The Incredibles as the third in the superhero genre). For the movie to break records and generally smash expectations is something for all of us movie fans to celebrate, in addition to those who made it and who are making money off it.

Over its opening weekend, Black Panther grossed a whopping $201.8M, which is Marvel’s second-best debut behind The Avengers if we don’t account for inflation. Otherwise it ranks third for the studio, also falling just below Avengers: Age of Ultron ($203.9M adjusted) but well above the next title, Iron Man 3 ($190.8M adjusted). And it is third best for the Marvel brand, also placing very slightly above Spider-Man 3 ($201.6M adjusted).

Even with the adjustment, though, the movie is far and away the best opening for a character’s first solo effort in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The previous record holder there was the first installment, Iron Man, which took in $98.6M a decade ago, and that figure still comes out to just $126.1M in today’s money. It’s actually even the best opening for a solo Marvel character in general, topping previous record holder Iron Man 3Black Panther also has the second-best superhero movie opening ever — or fourth with inflation, behind the two Avengers films and DC’s The Dark Knight.

Black Panther had the very best wide-release per-screen average for not just Marvel but any superhero movie (and third best of all wide releases), with a mean figure of $50.2K for its 4,020 theater count. Again, that’s diluted some by inflation, but even then the movie is as high as seventh place, only behind The Avengers among superhero movies while just slightly above 2002’s Spider-Man.

How does it all compare to box office forecasts going into the weekend? Back in December, Box Office Pro predicted a three-day take of just $90M (with the four-day holiday weekend take being $100M+) and domestic total of only $275M. Over the past few weeks, tracking had been better and better with expectations rising accordingly, but even by Thursday of last week the guesses were more in the $165M-$180M range (and $205M for the four-day frame), from Box Office Pro, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and others.  It’s always good to lowball, but those figures were well below the mark.Marvel

Most reports will point to Black Panther‘s achievement of having the fifth highest domestic opening of all time — behind only The AvengersStar Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi, and Jurassic World. With inflation taken into consideration, however, Black Panther is actually in seventh place, with Age of Ultron and The Dark Knight both having better openings.

A lot of times, pointing out the “well, actually…” situation of inflation makes for a humbling of the hype, but with Black Panther the reality of its box office is still incredible. And still worthy of all the excitement, particularly with regards to what the numbers mean for the movie’s more specific feats. Ryan Coogler broke the record for best domestic opening by a black director, toppling last year’s The Fate of the Furious ($101.3M adjusted). And it’s clearly the best for a movie with a black protagonist and with a predominantly black cast.

The movie will also surely wind up the highest-grossing movie by a black director, at least in North America. The current champion there is actually, with inflation adjustment, the 1980 Sidney Poitier-helmed comedy Stir Crazy, which tops the list with $345.7M. Global box office is another matter, though, as F. Gary Gray did amazing business overseas with The Fate of the Furious, taking the crown for best worldwide opening of all time and ending up with $1.2B.

Black Panther still did very well overseas, taking an extra $169M from 48 international markets (compared to The Fate of the Furious bowing in 63 markets for its additional $433.2M) for the 25th best foreign territory debut ever (and 15th overall global debut). Other MCU movies that started off better overseas include The Avengers ($185.1M from 39 markets), Iron Man 3 ($198.4M from 42 markets), Captain America: Civil War ($200.4M from 37 markets), and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($201.2M from 44 markets). Other superhero movies to open bigger overseas, even if not as big domestically, include Justice LeagueBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeSpider-Man 3, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

We could go over all the various milestones Black Panther has already achieved, including its defeat of last year’s Beauty and the Beast for the best pre-summer opening (considering anything before May 1st as pre-summer) and its easy overthrowing of Deadpool for best February and best winter opening. Black Panther also conquered President’s Day weekend, grossing an estimated $241.9M for the four-day timeframe through Monday, a record also previously held by Deadpool. Its President’s Day take alone of $41.2M is also the best Monday gross of all time (unadjusted), beating The Force Awakens‘ $40.1M a couple years ago.

But just know that in a number of ways, this weekend was a very big deal. Not just for superhero movies — sorry, anyone still waiting for fatigue there — but for the kind of superhero movie and kind of tentpole and kind of film overall: smartly written, well-executed, inclusively and diversely cast and represented, culturally and globally respectful blockbuster entertainment that is fun and thrilling in its action and fantasy and also complexly themed and thought-provoking. Congratulations, Black Panther!

Here is the estimated top 11 for the weekend, showing both three-day and four-day grosses, with new titles in bold and domestic totals in parentheses:

1. Black Panther – $201.8M – $241.9M ($241.9M)
2. Peter Rabbit – $17.6M – $23.1M ($54.1M)
3. Fifty Shades Freed – $17.3M – $19.4M ($78.6M)
4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – $7.9M – $10M ($379.7M)
5. The 15:17 to Paris – $7.6M – $9.1M ($26.9M)
6. The Greatest Showman – $5.1M – $6.3M ($155.6M)
7. Early Man – $3.2M – $4.2M ($4.2M)
8. Maze Runner: The Death Cure – $2.6M – $3.2M ($54.6M)
9. Winchester – $2.2M -$2.6M ($22.2M)
10. The Post – $2M – $2.5M ($77.1M)
11. Samson – $2M – $2.3M ($2.3M)

All box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.