Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever posted a Friday gross of $84 million from more than 4,300 North American theaters, one of the biggest opening days of all time and all but tying with fellow Marvel Studios title Avengers: Age of Ultron for No. 9 on the list, not adjusted for inflation.
Friday’s haul included $28 million in Thursday evening previews.
Wakanda Forever is now expecting an opening weekend gross of $174 million to $184 million domestically, although that number could climb higher depending upon Saturday’s numbers. (Veteran’s Day, which fell on Friday, is making exact modeling difficult). The tentpole’s arrival on the marquee couldn’t have been more welcome after a tough fall for theater owners.
While Wakanda Forever may not match the $202 million domestic debut of Coogler’s Black Panther in 2018, it is still doing formidable business and would rank among the top all-time openings in North America, not adjusted for inflation.
In February, Black Panther posted a Friday gross of $75.9 million, and then held in well exceptionally well. It is too early to say whether the sequel will be more frontloaded, although Likewise, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever boasts strong exits and an A CinemaScore (one difference: the first Black Panther earned a coveted A+).
Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested a $175 domestic million launch for the Marvel superhero sequel. Globally, the film is expected to open to $325 or more, one of the top launches of the pandemic era.
2018’s Black Panther was the first Hollywood studio tentpole to feature a predominantly Black cast and transformed into a cultural phenomenon on its way to earning more than $1.34 billion at the worldwide box office.
The sequel endured tragedy when Chadwick Boseman, who played the titular role of T’Challa/Black Panther in the 2018 film, died of colon cancer in August 2020. Wakanda Forever’s cast includes Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba and Martin Freeman, as well as Marvel newcomer Tenoch Huerta as Namor and Dominique Thorne as the hero Riri Williams.
Among superhero movies released in the pandemic era, Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home opened to $260.1 million in December 2021. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened to $187.4 million in early May of this year, while Thor: Love and Thunder scored $144.2 million in July (both were from Marvel/Disney). In March 2022, DC and Warner Bros.’ The Batman flew to $134 million in its launch. More recently, DC’s Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson in his first live-action superhero role, opened to a more subdued $67 million domestically.
The weekend’s other-profile opening is Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical tale and Oscar contender The Fabelmans, which is getting a slow platform release, much as a specialty film does, in order to build word of mouth. The movie, which Universal is opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, is anticipating a solid opening location average in the $36,000 range.