Why Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Looks Like This Year’s ‘Wonder Woman’

February 16, 2018, 5:46 PM UTC

Marvel’s Black Panther got off to a strong start on Thursday night, setting up the latest Walt Disney superhero film for what could be a record-setting opening weekend.

Deadline reports that Black Panther cleared $25.2 million in box-office sales for its run of Thursday night showings a day ahead of the film’s official Friday opening. That’s more than 2016’s Captain America: Civil War ($25 million in its Thursday opening) and behind 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron ($27.6M), giving Black Panther the second-biggest Thursday debut of any Disney-Marvel movie ever. It’s worth noting that both of those previous Marvel films pulled in well over $1 billion in total global box office. (Marvel’s Black Panther character also made his first big-screen appearance in Civil War.)

Meanwhile, Black Panther is forecasted to gross as much as $165 million domestically over the upcoming four-day President’s Day holiday weekend, and well over $250 million globally. (The film has already performed well in various overseas markets.) The movie certainly seems to be following a similar script to many of its Disney-Marvel superhero predecessors that rode major marketing campaigns and favorable critical buzz (Black Panther has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) on their way to becoming global box-office blockbusters.

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But Black Panther also has an obvious parallel from outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Wonder Woman, last year’s standalone film from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment starring Gal Gadot as the Amazonian superheroine. Wonder Woman not only performed extremely well with critics and at the box office ($821 million globally), the movie was also credited with laying waste to misguided Hollywood studio concerns that a female-led superhero movie could find broad appeal with audiences. In fact, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins was the first woman to direct a superhero movie and the film ended up as the highest-grossing movie ever helmed by a woman (along with being last year’s third-highest grossing film domestically).

Similarly, Black Panther‘s early success is already dispelling industry concerns that a superhero movie revolving almost entirely around black characters could resonate with a general audience and earn the same box-office popularity as other (whiter) blockbusters. Set mostly in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the film boasts a director and primary star who are both African-American men (director Ryan Coogler and actor Chadwick Boseman), while the cast also features numerous other notable black stars, such as Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker as well as Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan.

Much like Wonder Woman did last year, Black Panther is generating quite a bit of buzz on various social media platforms. Social media data and analytics company Shareablee tracked social media engagement in the eight months leading up to the release of both movies and found that, while Wonder Woman saw more engagement from YouTube video views in the months before its release, Black Panther saw roughly four-times more activity on Twitter and six-times more on Instagram. Last week, Variety reported that Black Panther had already become the world’s most tweeted-about movie of 2018, so far, generating more than five million tweets related to the film.