All bets on Black Panther to raise box-office takings

Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o star in Black Panther.
Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o star in Black Panther. PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS

NEW YORK • Can the superhero franchise get a new box-office roar?

After a year of sequel fatigue and less-than-marvellous spin-offs at the cinemas, Walt Disney's Black Panther is raising hopes that it can breathe new life into the comic-book genre when it comes out on Feb 16.

Ryan Coogler, the first African-American director of a big-budget superhero movie, got a standing ovation before the worldwide premiere on Monday in Hollywood.

Black Panther differs from many of the big-action releases, with a largely black cast and several women who share much of the screen time with their own action scenes.

Early praise for the picture has analysts rethinking already ambitious forecasts for a movie featuring a relatively obscure character from Marvel comics.

Mr Shawn Robbins at Box Office Pro predicts that Black Panther will open with North American weekend sales of US$133 million (S$174 million) and eventually net US$371 million domestically.

He has already raised his forecast by 11 per cent and said a US$140 million-plus opening is "on the table".

Only three movies exceeded that figure last year - Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty And The Beast and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 - all from Disney.

Of course, movie premiere crowds tend to be enthusiastic and it is possible broader audiences might not be as enthralled.

Last year's drop in domestic box-office sales raised questions about the durability of comic characters and sequels.

A few projects, like the latest Star Wars one, also faltered in China.

Black Panther could face challenges there, too, when it opens on March 9.

Marvel is the industry's most important film franchise, with US$13.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales - exceeding even the revived Star Wars films and putting Disney a league above rival makers of superhero fare.

Box Office Pro's current prediction puts Black Panther ahead of 21st Century Fox's surprise 2016 Marvel hit Deadpool and Warner's Justice League, the November mash-up with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

While Disney has yet to provide estimates for Black Panther, its embargo on critics' reviews lifts 10 days before the release date - an indication that the company believes they will be positive.

The film is also garnering sponsors such as car brand Lexus that want to tap younger, more diverse consumers.

Meanwhile, actor Chadwick Boseman revealed on Tuesday that doubters had tried to convince him not to give the superhero an African accent - and how proud he was to prove them wrong.

"The intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British or European one," he said at a press conference attended by co-stars Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2018, with the headline 'All bets on Black Panther to raise box-office takings'. Subscribe