Black Panther heads to glory with $310 million holiday weekend

Chadwick Boseman plays T'Challa, leader of a fictional African nation who becomes the powerful Black Panther.
Chadwick Boseman plays T'Challa, leader of a fictional African nation who becomes the powerful Black Panther.PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS/VARIETY.COM) - Disney-Marvel's Black Panther is heading for a stunning US$235 million ($310 million) debut over the four-day President's Day weekend at 4,020 North American locations, estimates showed Monday (Feb 19).

Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, has blown away its original tracking in less than a month. The film, which carries an estimated US$200 million production cost, had been tracking to bring in between an impressive US$100 and US$120 million when first estimates emerged on Jan 25.

Since then, Black Panther has become far more than just a popular tentpole title. Instead, it's become a must-see event as it veers into record-setting territory. Thursday previews brought in US$25.2 million, the largest Thursday night preview gross for a February opener and the second-largest preview gross for a Marvel film. The film has continued to shatter all projections since then.

On Sunday, Disney estimated that Black Panther would take in US$218 million for Presidents Day weekend, then revised that number upward on Monday morning by an astounding US$17 million. The movie finished Sunday with a US$60.1 million - the second best Sunday in industry history, just slightly behind 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens record of US$60.6 million.

With 73 per cent of schools closed, "Black Panther" business should decline 45 per cent from Sunday for a US$33 million Monday and US$235 million four-day debut.

Black Panther has also pushed the 2018 year to date domestic gross up 6.9 per cent to US$1.65 billion, according to comScore. It is the highest three-day debut ever for a February film and the fifth highest of all time behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens at US$248 million, Star Wars: The Last Jedi at US$220 million, Jurassic World at US$208.8 million and The Avengers at US$207.4 million.

Black Panther has demolished the record for the largest President's Day weekend, blowing past Deadpool's 2016 mark of US$152 million. Overall North American moviegoing for the four-day period should hit an eye-popping US$340 million - far above the $278 million mark in 2016, according to comScore.

Boseman portrays T'Challa, the ruler of Wakanda, a technologically advanced society, who conflicts with Michael B. Jordan's Eric Killmonger, who intends to take over the throne. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Daniel Kaluuya also star.

Black Panther should dominate moviegoing for several weeks. Three new films launch next weekend with initial tracking on Feb 1 showing Warner Bros.' comedy Game Night was projecting an opening in the US$15 million to US$20 million range on Feb 23-25, while Paramount's sci-fi thriller Annihilation debuting in the US$12 million to US$15 million area during the same weekend.

Sony's second weekend of family comedy Peter Rabbit is finishing a distant second with about US$23 million at 3,725 sites for an 11-day total of US$54 million, followed by Universal's second session of Fifty Shades Freed with US$19.4 million at 3,768 venues. The finale of the erotic trilogy has taken in US$78.6 million domestically so far.