The box office roared back to life with the long-awaited release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
The Marvel sequel earned $180 million in ticket sales from more than 4,396 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, according to estimates from The Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, making it the second biggest opening of the year behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Overseas, it brought in an additional $150 million from 50 territories, bringing its worldwide total to $330 million.
“Wakanda Forever” was eagerly anticipated by both audiences and exhibitors, who have weathered a slow spell at the box office since the summer movie season ended and there were fewer bigger budget blockbusters in the pipeline. The film got off to a mighty start a bit stronger than even the first film with an $84 million opening day, including $28 million from Thursday previews.
The first film opened to $202 million in February 2018 and went on to gross over $1.4 billion worldwide, making it one of the highest grossing films of all time and a cultural phenomenon. A sequel was inevitable, and development began soon after, but everything changed after Chadwick Boseman’s unexpected death in August 2020. “Wakanda Forever” became, instead, about the death of Boseman’s King T’Challa/Black Panther, and the grieving kingdom he left behind. Returning actors include Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke and Danai Gurira, who face off against a new foe in Tenoch Huerta’s Namor. The film would face more complications too, including Wright getting injured and some COVID-19 related setbacks. All told, it cost a reported $250 million to make, not accounting for marketing and promotion.
AP Film Writer Jake Coyle wrote in his review that, “‘Wakanda Forever’ is overlong, a little unwieldy and somewhat mystifyingly steers toward a climax on a barge in the middle of the Atlantic. But Coogler’s fluid command of mixing intimacy with spectacle remains gripping.”
It currently holds an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and, as is often the case with comic book films, the audience scores are even higher.
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Superhero films have fared well during the pandemic, but none yet have reached the heights of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opened to $260.1 million in Dec. 2021. Other big launches include “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($187.4 million in May), “Thor: Love and Thunder” ($144.2 million in July) and “The Batman” ($134 million in March).
Holdovers populated the rest of the top five, as no film dared launch nationwide against a Marvel behemoth. Second place went to the DC superhero “Black Adam,” with $8.6 million, bringing its domestic total to $151.1 million. “Ticket to Paradise” landed in third, in weekend four, with $6.1 million. The Julia Roberts and George Clooney romantic comedy has made nearly $150 million worldwide.
The weekend wasn’t completely without any other high-profile releases. Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama “ The Fabelmans ” opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles with $160,000. Universal and Amblin will roll the film out to more theaters in the coming weeks to build excitement around the likely Oscar-contender. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano play parents to the Spielberg stand-in Sammy Fabelman, who is falling in love with movies and filmmaking as his parents’ marriage crumbles.
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