Marvel’s ‘Black Panther 2’ brings in $84m at screenings

Cast member Letitia Wright attends the premiere of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in London, Britain, on November 3, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

New York:  “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” raked in $84m domestically on Friday, which includes Thursday previews, a strong start for a movie that’s expected to be one of the highest-grossing films of the year.

It was the 10th largest opening day in industry history, topping Jurassic World’s $82m, Disney said in a press release on Saturday. 

Globally, the film took in $148.7m by the end of Friday.

The film’s predecessor, 2018’s Black Panther, generated $76m in its first day. That picture went on to gross more than $200m in its opening weekend, according to Disney. 

The film, from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel unit, may be a much-needed shot in the arm for the theater industry. Adam Aron, chief executive officer of the No. 1 cinema chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., said this week it could become “the second biggest movie of 2022 behind only Top Gun: Maverick.”

A big hit would remind Wall Street that entertainment companies, mired in writedowns and staggering streaming losses, can still make money at movie theaters. Wakanda Forever could generate between $170m and $205m in its US and Canadian debut, researcher Boxoffice Pro estimates. 

The picture is shaping up to be a badly-needed win for Disney, which fell the most in more than 20 years in New York trading on Wednesday. The entertainment giant blazed trails when it released the first Black Panther, the first big-budget superhero film to star a mostly Black cast. The picture went on to gross almost $1.4bn worldwide, dispelling myths that action movies starring people of color wouldn’t perform well abroad.

The new film has faced setbacks — coming out at a time of broader economic pain — and tragedies. The actor who portrayed the title character, Chadwick Boseman, died unexpectedly from cancer in 2020. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler recast the new story as one that incorporates the hero’s death and focuses on a team of Black heroines.

The film includes new and recurring characters as they grieve the late King T’Challa of the fictional, technologically-adVanced kingdom of Wakanda — played in the original by Boseman. It has had mostly strong reviews, with an 85% critical approVal rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Wakanda Forever could produce more sequels and spinoffs. Actress Dominique Thorne, who plays a genius college student and inventor, has already been cast in Ironheart, a Disney+ series based on her character.

In addition to its domestic haul, Disney expects Wakanda Forever to sell up to $175m worth of tickets abroad this weekend. That’s without China and Russia, where political tensions have hampered releases by US companies. It should easily beat the performance of riVal DC Comics film Black Adam, which generated $67m domestically on the first weekend Warner Bros. released it last month.

US theater ticket sales are on track to reach $7.6bn this year, about two-thirds of the 2019 level, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Kevin Near and Geetha Ranganathan. Studios delayed many big-budget movies as a result of the pandemic. AMC’s Aron said this year they released 30% fewer theatrical movies than in normal times.

For theaters hoping for a busier release schedule, the next big box-office weekend is more than a month away. On December 16, James Cameron’s AVatar sequel debuts. 

A strong performance would relieve pressure on Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive officer, who sought to reassure investors this week that the company’s results represented “a turning point” as it reached peak losses in its streaming business. 

Wakanda Forever is the last Marvel movie Disney has scheduled this year. The brand has churned out several of the highest-grossing films of all time, largely by creating a cinematic universe of interlocking films developing a solid fan base under the leadership of Kevin Feige. 

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