LOS ANGELES – T’Challa still rules the box office four weeks in, even with the fresh rivalry of another Walt Disney Studios release in “A Wrinkle in Time.”
“Black Panther” took the No. 1 spot at the North American box office with $41.1 million according to studio estimates Sunday, leaving another newcomer in its wake. The Marvel and Disney phenomenon crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide this weekend and became the 7th highest grossing domestic release with $562 million. Not accounting for inflation, it’s now passed “The Dark Knight.”
With a marketplace still dominated by “Black Panther,” Disney faced some stiff competition from its own studio in launching Ava DuVernay’s adaption of “A Wrinkle in Time,” which opened in second place with $33.3 million from 3,980 locations. The PG-rated film, which cost around $103 million to produce and stars Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, received mixed reviews from critics (it’s currently at a “rotten” 44 percent on RottenTomatoes) and audiences who gave it a B CinemaScore.
In gauging “A Wrinkle in Time’s” long-term prospects, a somewhat similar comparison could be Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” a PG-rated sci-fi pic with middling reviews and a B CinemaScore which opened to $33 million in the early summer of 2015 and went on to gross $93 million domestically. “Tomorrowland,” however, notably cost nearly twice as much to make as “A Wrinkle in Time.”
But the “Black Panther” effect is the x-factor here. For Disney, it’s a “win all around.”
“When you think about having two films at the top of the box office, it’s definitely a win all around,” says Disney’s worldwide theatrical distribution president Dave Hollis. “We’re feeling good about this start … We’re feeling good about what, for us, is a little family competition between now and (the Easter holiday).”
Hollis says he doesn’t think the studio would have done anything differently regarding “Wrinkle’s” release had they known the scope and longevity of “Black Panther’s” prospects.
“There’s always going to be competition in the marketplace,” he says. “With a tentpole strategy like ours, four weeks of separation is about what we can expect.”
Still, “Black Panther” has devoured the marketplace for a month straight now, leaving all other newcomers in the dust.
The new horror film “The Strangers: Prey At Night,” with Christina Hendricks, took third place with $10.5 million. The Jennifer Lawrence thriller “Red Sparrow” landed in fourth in its second weekend with $8.2 million and the comedy “Game Night” placed fifth with $7.9 million in weekend three.
Hardly any of the new releases, which also included the thriller “The Hurricane Heist” (8th place, $3.2 million) and the dark action comedy “Gringo,” (11th place, $2.6 million) were well-reviewed going into the weekend, save for the limited release independents like “Thoroughbreds,” which made $1.2 million from 549 locations, and Armando Iannucci’s “The Death of Stalin,” which opened in four theaters to $181,000.
It also left room for the Academy Award best picture winner “The Shape of Water,” which is also available on home video, to capitalize on its post-Oscars stature. The Fox Searchlight film added 720 theaters and took in in $2.4 million from 1,552 locations, bringing its domestic total to $61 million.
But even though “Black Panther” has helped boost the year to date box office significantly, it’s also proving to be a continued challenge for any other wide release hoping for a piece of the market.
“Every movie that has opened in the wake of `Black Panther’ has had its work cut out for it,” says comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “We keep underestimating this film and it just shows no sign of slowing down.”
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