The epic box-office debut of “Black Panther,” the first Marvel superhero movie with an African-American in the title role, will force Hollywood to reassess the work it gives black actors and filmmakers and lead to better roles for minorities and women.
The movie from Walt Disney Co.’s superhero factory opened with estimated weekend sales of $192 million, ComScore Inc. said Sunday in an email, setting a record for a February opening and likely becoming the biggest movie ever starring a largely black cast. Analysts were forecasting about as much as $185 million for Friday through Sunday.
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 and the studio will follow later this year 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 $100 million budget movie.
“It is a precedent-setting movie that we hope will create more,” John Fithian, chief executive officer of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told Bloomberg TV on Friday. “We really look forward to the day when these aren’t anomalies.”
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 costs, 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.
With the Monday President’s Day observance, “Black Panther” has another full day to advance its run. The film is showing in 4,020 locations in the U.S., many of them multiplexes. The screenings including 3,300 theaters with 3-D, 403 with Imax screens and 665 so-called premium large format screens.
For the extended weekend, Disney raised its sales forecast Saturday to as much as $210 million after boosting the estimate a day earlier to $198 million. Box Office Pro was forecasting revenue of $205 million, while Box Office Mojo predicted $212 million.
The previous sales record for an opening weekend in a February was $132.4 million for “Deadpool,” a Marvel superhero movie released in 2016 by 21st Century Fox, according to Box Office Mojo.