Of course, it’s no surprise that Black Panther was again No. 1 this weekend. Like, was there any doubt? In fact, the only thing that is a surprise is that a lot of people were surprised how extraordinarily well the film has been performing at the box office. (You get that?) It was destined to be a major hit. Why were so many people worried?
First of all, it’s a Marvel film meaning that they have a well-oiled machine that cranks out nothing but box office hits. Now to be clear, we’re talking about films actually developed, produced and financed by Marvel Films, and not those Marvel projects owned by other studios such as Fantastic Four and X-Men (although the recent Fox-Disney deal may put them in the same orbit). In those cases, the box office performances of those films are rather uneven. But when Marvel has total control, they know how to do it and they haven’t had a box office loser yet.
Second, as I mentioned last week, the high anticipation, “gotta see this” factor, for Black Panther was the biggest I’ve ever seen for any movie in quite some time. There was some of that for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but still not even on the same level of Black Panther. The film was answering a desperate need for a vast hungry audience that had been staving for too long. (Well black film critic Armond White, of course, hated it but you just know he was going not to. That’s his shtick).
And, as I also been predicting would happen for a month though no one would listen to me (but then who does?), Black Panther had the smallest second week dropoff for any film and especially for a Marvel film that anyone can recall. It’s usual for a superhero movie to drop off some 55-60 percent in its second week, but BH had only had a 46 percent dropoff this weekend. The enthusiasm for the film and reports of people going to see the film 2, 3 and even 4 times in just its first week alone meant that the word of mouth was unlike for any film in recent or ancient memory, and the film is resonating with filmgoers in a way that few films can actually claim to.
As a result, the film is set for the second-best second weekend for any film in history with $108 million this weekend with $400 million domestically up to now and over $704 million worldwide to date. It is only the fourth film to cross $100 million in the second weekend. All of this brings up the question: can Black Panther actually reach the exhaled $1 billion worldwide mark? This is a status that only 32 other films have accomplished since 1993. At this point, it could, though time will tell.
But a better question is … does it really need to?
Not only is it smash here in North America, but in two-thirds of the 60 major foreign territories, the film is No.1, even in countries you wouldn’t normally imagine such as Austria, Bulgaria, Slovakia, India and Romania. In Italy, the No. 1 film is an Italian film There’s No Place Like Home, but in Poland, Germany, Serbia, Lativa, Switzerland, and Israel it’s Fifty Shades Freed. (I guess Black Panther needed more bondage scenes). However, Fifty Shades is also No. 1 in Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic. Those other countries I can understand, but Trinidad and the D.R.? What’s going on there? Hey, get with the program!
Box office analyst Erik Childress wrote this week that “it’s a lock” for the film do to a billion. But I say, as of today that is, maybe. The main key if it does or doesn’t is it opens on March 9. And as I wrote back last April, China is not the most progressive country when it comes to black images in movies.
There was that notorious incident where John Boyega’s face was entirely removed from the Chinese posters for The Force Awakens. They sort of corrected that with the poster for The Last Jedi, but his image is the smallest and placed towards the bottom left of the poster. You almost have to search to find it. And how are they going to sell Pacific Rim: Uprising, in which Boyega is the lead, when it opens there this spring? And Kevin Hart only appears in just one of the Chinese posters for Jumanji, (which has made $915 million worldwide, $80 million of that from China) and he’s placed way in the back behind the other white characters and Dwayne Johnson. You could easily miss him.
And for the Chinese posters for Black Panther, so far it’s just the image of him in his suit. Chinese filmgoers do know that he’s black, right? I mean they did see him in those Avengers movies, didn’t they?
But does Black Panther need China for it to be a hit? Not at all. The film is already No. 1 in other Asian territories such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore. It opens in Japan and in Russia this week. The film is definitely on track to do $900 million worldwide after all is said and done. So who needs China?
And keep in mind that Deadpool, for example, grossed almost $800 million and it was never released China, as are overwhelmingly most Hollywood films. The country has a very strict quota on how many Western films can be released in the country every year, as well as tough censorship laws. So the answer seems to be Black Panther is a guaranteed box office worldwide monster hit that, just maybe, could go on gross a billion and that it may not actually need China to do that, but it wouldn’t hurt. We’ll see in few weeks how it plays out.
As for other new films which opened this week, what Marvel did so right with Black Panther, Paramount did so wrong with their women-lead sci-fi/thriller Annihilation. Though it’s gotten some very good reviews, the film, in fact, got terrible audience test previews last year (and if you’ve seen the film you can see where it all goes wrong in the last third). When the studio asked the film’s writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) for reshoots, he refused. So Paramount, which has been in a box office slump for over a year, decided to pull back on the marketing for the film and sold off the international rights for the film to Netflix, and basically announced that they thought the film was a loser and had given up on it. So, no surprise that the film underperformed coming in fourth with $11 million and it’s sure to drop big in the following weeks since word of mouth has not been great.
Warner Bros. comedy Game Night managed to come in second with $16 million, however, Sony Animation’s Peter Rabbit has turned out the be an unexpected little sleeper hit for the studio with $12.5 million this weekend and over $71 million so far. Meanwhile, Fox’s musical The Greatest Showman has turned out to be a hit for the studio as well with over $160 million domestically and almost $350 million worldwide. The musical genre seems to be back, which has to be good news for Steven Spielberg who is currently working on his West Side Story remake set for release this December.
1) Black Panther BV $108,046,000 Total: $400,000,
2) Game Night WB $16,600,000
3) Peter Rabbit Sony $12,545,000 Total: $71,290,702
4) Annihilation Par. $11,000,000
5) Fifty Shades Freed Uni. $6,915,000 Total: $89,560,780
6) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Sony $5,650,000 Total: $387,284,215
7) The 15:17 to Paris WB $3,600,000 Total: $32,257,752
8) The Greatest Showman Fox $3,400,000 Total: $160,766,870
9) Every Day Orion $3,103,996 Total: $3,103,996
10) Early Man LGF $1,700,000Total: $6,779,422
11) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri FoxS $1,225,000 Total: $50,129,579
12) The Post Fox $1,200,000 Total: $78,848,001 $50 10
13) The Shape of Water FoxS $1,115,000 Total: $55,300,844