Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is reigning over the box office.
The superhero sequel earned $84 million from 4,396 locations on its opening day. That figures includes $28 million in Thursday previews, which marked the 15th-highest preview gross in history and bested the first “Black Panther’s” figure by $3 million. It’s also the second biggest opening day of the year, behind the $90.4 million earned by fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe entry “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
Estimates heading into the weekend suggested “Wakanda Forever” could net a gross between $185 million to $200 million in its opening, though some competitors are now projecting that the film will fall shy of that range. “Doctor Strange 2” has remained the biggest opening weekend of the year since it debuted with $187 million in May. Whether the “Black Panther” sequel can surpass it by Monday, Marvel is once again in competition with itself for box office superlatives.
The arrival of the “Black Panther” sequel represents a box office surge for a theatrical landscape that has been largely bereft of high-profile releases since the summer. To put things in perspective, “Wakanda Forever” will be the first movie since July’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” to open above $100 million. Even further, though Warner Bros. release “Black Adam” has drawn a substantial audience in recent weeks, “Wakanda Forever” looks to outgross the DC entry within its first three days of release. That’s how big a splash the film is making.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” follows the rulers of the African country as they cope with the loss of King T’Challa, played in the 2018 original by Chadwick Boseman. Boseman died of colon cancer in August 2020. When Wakanda faces an attack from an underwater kingdom led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) must band together to save their country.
“These women seize the reins of what is less a typical Marvel movie, driven by light-and-magic effects, than an intricately doom-laden and engrossing geopolitical thriller,” Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review of the film.
Reviews have been positive for “Wakanda Forever,” if not quite as glowing as its 2018 predecessor’s. The sequel currently holds a 76% approval rating from top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences are proving to be even more receptive, with the film landing a shining “A” grade through research firm Cinema Score, indicating strong enthusiasm among moviegoers. That’s also a step up from Marvel’s two other releases this year, “Multiverse of Madness” and “Love and Thunder” — both of which landed positive, albeit subpar for Marvel, grades of “B+.”
Whether the “Black Panther” sequel lands the biggest or second-biggest opening weekend of the year, it has plenty of runway ahead in the coming weeks to benefit from word-of-mouth. The film won’t face another high-profile contender until Disney’s animated romp “Strange World” releases over Thanksgiving weekend.
“Black Adam” looks to take second on domestic charts. Dwayne Johnson’s antihero origin story earned $2.75 million on Friday, down 42% from a week ago. The DC entry should expand its domestic gross to $150 million through the weekend.
Universal’s “Ticket to Paradise” continues to charm audiences, projecting another impressive hold in its fourth weekend. The Julia Roberts-George Clooney two-hander looks to fall only 26% from its previous outing, pushing its domestic cume to $56 million through Sunday. The romantic comedy has shown exceptional staying power since its debut in mid-October, earning roughly 3.5x its opening weekend gross.
Sony’s “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” is shooting for fourth, projecting a $3 million haul for the weekend. The family musical, featuring Shawn Mendes as the voice of a shy but talented singing reptile, looks to push its domestic total past $40 million.
Paramount’s “Smile” continues to hang around the top five after seven weeks of release, projecting a $2.28 million haul for the week.
In limited release, Universal’s awards contender “The Fabelmans” kicked off with a $60,000 opening day gross, debuting in four locations between New York and Los Angeles. Steven Spielberg’s highly praised semi-autobiographical drama is projecting a solid $36,000 per theater average for the weekend. The film will expand nationwide over the coming weeks.
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