LOS ANGELES (Reuters)- For the first time in recent memory, films both led and directed by African-Americans have nabbed the first and second place spots at the North American box office
Black Panther remained superheroic in its fourth weekend at the North American box office with US$41.1 million (S$54 million) at 3,942 locations, easily topping the opening weekend of fantasy-adventure A Wrinkle In Time with US$33.5 million at 3,980 sites, estimates showed on Sunday (March 11).
What had been pegged as a close contest among Disney titles for first place turned into a relatively easy victory for Black Panther. The Marvel title declined only 38 per cent and generated the third-highest fourth weekend of all time, trailing only Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With US$562 million in 24 days, Black Panther is now the seventh-highest domestic grosser of all time. It's the first film since Star Wars: The Force Awakens to lead the North American box office for four straight weekends and it's grossed US$1.08 billion worldwide, 21st highest of all time.
A Wrinkle In Time opened in line with Disney's projections, which were slightly lower than the industry consensus. Critics were mostly unimpressed with a 42 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave it a B CinemaScore. The US$100 million-plus budgeted film is depending on family audiences to support the film in the coming weeks to push it into profitability.
Based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film follows a young girl (Reid), her step-brother (Deric McCabe), and a friend (Levi Miller) as they embark on a journey that spans time and space in search of her missing father.
Mr Dave Hollis, president of worldwide distribution for Disney, told Variety that Black Panther and A Wrinkle In Time accounted for inclusion through their portrayals of strong female and minority characters.
"Audiences respond to seeing themselves on the big screen and it's good business for us," he added. "Representation and inclusion matter."
Hollis also predicted that A Wrinkle in Time has the next four weekends during spring vacations from schools. He noted that Disney has traditionally opened a family film in early March to take advantage of the family demographic, as it did last year with Beauty And The Beast and in 2016 with Zootopia.
Other films led by African-Americans have topped the box office recently. Jordan Peele's Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya, led the box office its opening weekend in February last year, with US$33.3 million. The wide release of Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, opened at No. 1 in January last year with US$22.8 million.
This week, the opening of Aviron Pictures' The Strangers: Prey at Night came in third with US$10.5 million at 2,464 venues. Directed by Johannes Roberts, the horror sequel to 2008's The Strangers stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, and Lewis Pullman.
Fox's second weekend of Jennifer Lawrence's spy thriller Red Sparrow followed in fourth with US$8.2 million at 3,064 sites with a 52 per cent decline. Red Sparrow has topped US$31 million in its first 10 days.
Warner Bros' third weekend of R-rated comedy Game Night finished fifth with US$7.9 million at 3,061 locations and taking in US$45 million over 17 days.
Fox showed sneak previews of its gay romance Love, Simon on Saturday night ahead of its opening next weekend in about 2,400 locations. Warner Bros is also launching action-adventure Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander, in around 3,600 locations. Both face formidable competition from the fifth weekend of Black Panther, which could contend again for first place.