The holiday movie season skipped a week this year, deciding to kick off the second weekend in November in earnest with the first of two guaranteed blockbusters. Whether or not either will approach the $700 million of their predecessors remains a mystery. At least for the one next week. Marvel faced a weighty decision on whether to recast one of the most cherished characters in all of the MCU. How would audiences embrace their decision to let a little reality sink into their fantasy? Looking at its first weekend, the faithful showed it was more than just a curiosity. Now the question is just how long the new Black Panther will flourish.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may not have hit the $200 million that the original film opened to in February 2018, but it does now own the highest November opening of all time (Disney now owns six of the months), surpassing the first Hunger Games sequel and three Twilight sequels with $180 million. Let’s get the rest of the lists out of the way. That is the 8th highest opening in the MCU, just ahead of Captain America: Civil War ($179.1 million) and below this summer’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness ($187.4 million). It had the 13th best Thursday “preview” opening ever with $28 million and the 10th best Friday (combined with Thursday “previews”) ever. It also currently ranks 17th with critics at Rotten Tomatoes among all MCU films with a Certified Fresh 84% on the Tomatometer. Out of the 30 MCU films, 18 have scored 80% or higher and only one (Eternals) has has been designated Rotten.
So where does $180 million get Wakanda Forever? Well, its path to at least $400 million appears very solid. No film that has opened to over $170 million has strayed off that path. It also looks to have a pretty clear path on being the first film to lead the box office for five straight weeks since Tenet. Like the Christopher Nolan film, Wakanda Forever is going to benefit from a depleted marketplace. Unless Disney’s Strange World manages to inspire big attendance over the Thanksgiving holiday, Wakanda Forever should stay No. 1 until James Cameron enters the game on Dec. 16 and will lead for possibly six weeks. Doctor Strange’s Multiverse began with a “B+” Cinemascore and finished with over $411 million. Wakanda Forever has started with an “A” in that poll and will now depend on word-of-mouth to try and push for something closer to $500 million, a task only seven movies this late in the year have ever achieved. Four of them were Star Wars, two were Cameron films, and then there’s last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Frozen II is the all-time November leader with $477 million. Wakanda Forever’s worldwide haul stands at over $330 million, but it will not be seeing a release in China.
Falling back into second place is the superhero who led for the past three weeks, DC’s Black Adam. It fell over 50% to $8.6 million that, with a 24-day total of $151 million, puts it just above where Marvel’s Eternals was last year when it grossed $7.9 million in its fourth frame. That suggests a tally over $165 million, and it may find itself getting past our ceiling projection of $170 million, but not by much. Either way, it is still a far cry from the half-billion it is going to need to break even. Worldwide, its total stands at $336 million.
One of the good stories of autumn is the late-season success of the old school movie star rom-com formula that is Ticket To Paradise. The George Clooney/Julia Roberts film fell just 29% to $6.1 million, bringing its total to over $56 million. That is a better fourth weekend than Law Abiding Citizen had in 2009 when it had run its 24-day total up to just over $60 million. Paradise is trailing Citizen‘s total by about $4 million, but if it can make up a little ground (especially with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up), we can project the film hitting $70 million domestic, a big pushback against the “big screen comedy is dead” crowd. Add in another $92 million overseas and Universal should be seeing this one just get into the black for them.
The even bigger story of autumn has been the success of Paramount’s horror film, Smile, which crossed $100 million just before the weekend and now stands just shy of $103 million with another $2.3 million. That’s on the same weekend that Halloween Ends is no more for the top 10 and Prey For The Devil fell to $2 million for a total of $16.9 million. Last week’s second place finisher, One Piece Film Red, fell way back to seventh with an 84% drop to only $1.45 million for a total of $12.8 million. Sony’s family film, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, remains high on the list at fourth. It may have fallen just 9% this week, but that still only means $3.2 million to get its total over $40 million.
Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans opened in four theaters this weekend before its wider launch for Thanksgiving. It grossed $160,000 for a per-theater average of $40,000. That’s the fifth best of the year, ahead of the launch of Tar but below The Banshees Of Inisherin. Spielberg’s film is a likely Best Picture nominee and will generate further press throughout a marketplace that is not as crowded as usual holiday seasons. Also consider these eventual Best Picture nominees that opened in just four theaters between $100,000-$200,000, and pay attention to their highest theater count:
Beasts of the Southern Wild ($12.7 million / 318 theaters)
Room ($14.6 million / 862)
The Hurt Locker ($17 million / 535)
Nebraska ($17.6 million / 968)
In The Name of the Father ($25 million / 688)
Philomena ($37.7 million / 1225)
The Piano ($40.1 million / 671)
Bugsy ($49.1 million / 1253)
Fences ($57.6 million / 2368)
Gandhi ($52.7 million / 825)
Traffic ($124.1 million / 1755)
Aside from Gandhi, the film that beat out Spielberg’s E.T. that year, other films that were held back from wider release did not find greater financial success. The Fabelmans will be and should not be summarily dismissed for what might be deemed a less than impressive number this weekend. The Banshees Of Inisherin, which added 65 theaters to drive its theater count up to 965, fell 25% to $1.5 million. It has now grossed $5.6 million and is on a path closer to James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, which finished with $8.5 million, less than any of the Best Picture nominees on that list. (Gray’s own Armageddon Time made it into the top 10 this week, but it dropped 56% to $352,000 and has made just $1.5 million.) If Searchlight can keep interest alive and continue to add more theaters, it could maybe get closer to those Room numbers. Tar, meanwhile, fell to only 359 theaters and added $343,000 to bring its total up to $4.5 million.
Next week Universal opens the journalism drama She Said, about the infamous pattern of criminal behavior by Harvey Weinstein. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as the reporters who investigated the stories. It boasts an 82% with critics currently. Doing even better at 89% and opening wide is the foodie horror film The Menu with Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. Can Searchlight bring in the crowds that gave quite the boost to the autumn season?
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
Thumbnail image by ©Marvel Studios