By Anousha Sakoui
Walt Disney Co.’s “Black Panther” smashed Presidents’ Day weekend records with a $235 million debut, a showing that may force Hollywood to reassess the work it gives black actors and filmmakers.
The first Marvel superhero movie with an African-American in the title role kept drawing unprecedented crowds after setting an all-time high with $192 million estimated weekend sales, ComScore Inc. said Monday in an email. The four-day box-office showing also exceeded Disney’s forecast.
Success breeds success in Hollywood, and the money “Black Panther” rakes in will almost certainly open the door to more action films with black casts and filmmakers. While Disney hasn’t announced a sequel, one seems likely.
“We really look forward to the day when these aren’t anomalies,” John Fithian, chief executive officer of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told Bloomberg TV on Friday. “These movies can set precedents for other movies like this in the future.”
For the extended weekend, “Black Panther” topped Disney’s $210 million sales projection, a forecast the company raised on Saturday from $198 million. Box Office Pro had estimated sales of $205 million, while Box Office Mojo predicted $212 million.
Disney will follow next month with “A Wrinkle in Time,” a young-adult film with a large, diverse cast from African-American director Ava DuVernay, the first woman of color to direct a movie with a budget of $100 million.
“Black Panther” was also the biggest movie globally over the weekend, taking in $361 million, according to a statement from the studio. It opened in about 70 percent of the international territories that are slated to show the film, but won’t debut in China, the world’s second biggest market, until March 9.
“If you can have something that authentically is a showcase of the diversity of the world, people will respond favorably to it,” Dave Hollis, president of global distribution at Disney, said in an interview.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, joined by some studios and guilds, has been pressing for more diversity in Hollywood. If there is a sequel to “Black Panther,” Marvel chief Kevin Feige said in an interview with Variety that he hoped African-American director Ryan Coogler will return.
Disney first announced plans for a “Black Panther” movie in 2014. The film has received rave reviews, scoring 100 percent positive ratings from top critics, according to aggregator RottenTomatoes.com. It cost $200 million to make, not including marketing expenses, according to the studio.
“Black Panther” tells the story of T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, who fights for control of the kingdom of Wakanda after the death of his father. A Wakandan raised in America, Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, threatens to overthrow him and seize control over the fictional African nation’s stores of vibranium — a powerful resource that can be fused into clothing and body tissue for super-strength.
The movie “has taken on a life of its own at movie theaters, playing to huge, broad audiences in AMC markets around the country,” Elizabeth Frank, chief content officer at AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., said Sunday in an email. AMC, the biggest U.S. distributor, is adding more showtimes for the film, she said.
“Black Panther” is showing in 4,020 locations in the U.S., many of them multiplexes. The screenings include 3,300 theaters with 3-D, 403 with Imax screens and 665 so-called premium large format screens.
The previous four-day sales record for the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend was $152.2 million for “Deadpool,” a Marvel superhero movie released in 2016 by 21st Century Fox, according to ComScore.
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