As reported last month, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is on track for a new November box office record debut when it hits cinemas this weekend. The standing benchmark is 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with $158.1 million.
Furthermore, models indicate it has a shot at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and its $187.4 million domestic start, the best of 2022 thus far.
The highly anticipated sequel is the third and final Marvel Cinematic Universe event release of the year, and fans are somberly eager to see how the franchise moves forward without Chadwick Boseman’s beloved T’Challa in the wake of the actor’s tragic and untimely passing due to cancer two years ago.
That’s arguably the largest variable in forecasting a movie that has plenty of them in play. Critics have awarded the film a very positive 86 percent score across 148 reviews so far, the best of three MCU theatrical entries this year since Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Whether or not that’s strong enough to move the needle for less-than-committed viewers is up for debate, especially in a post-Avengers: Endgame era that has seen some saturation begin to take effect on the broader franchise’s must-see aura.
Granted, the MCU machine is still rolling stronger than any other in the industry, but mixed reception for Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and several Disney+ streaming series have at the very least called into question which chapters of the sprawling universe will bring back die-hards and general audiences at the same time.
Wakanda Forever is certainly a candidate to do that.
The previous Black Panther film was already a boundary-pusher for its diverse audience makeup, drawing Black communities in unprecedented numbers that didn’t weigh heavily enough in pre-release tracking and helped that film exceed all expectations with a $202 million domestic opening and $700.1 million finish.
The 2018 Panther also attracted 55 percent men on opening weekend (50 percent on opening day). That represents a closer-to-even gender split than either the Strange (62 percent male) or Thor (60 percent male) sequel earlier this year. With a predominately female cast, Wakanda Forever could approach its direct predecessor’s gender split again, one shared by Captain Marvel on opening weekend in 2019.
Outside the demographic discussion is the fact that this Friday is Veterans Day in the United States, providing a holiday boost for those out of work and/or school.
Wakanda Forever‘s pre-sales reflect that as true Friday ticket-buyers have begun to outpace Thursday preview shows over the last few days, according to independent research and sampling. As of Wednesday morning, the Panther sequel’s advance Friday purchases are trending almost 20 percent ahead of its own Thursday sales.
For comparison, Multiverse of Madness Friday sales were pacing around 20 percent behind its Thursday previews at the same Wednesday morning point before opening. Love and Thunder‘s Friday was 29 percent behind Thursday pre-buys.
What this suggests is Wakanda‘s internal weekend trajectory could end up less front-loaded than recent MCU event films. While it will still be far more fan-driven than most films in the first 30-or-so hours of release going into Saturday, it could see a number of sales displaced from Thursday to Friday due to the aforementioned holiday factor, not to mention a two-hour-and-forty-one-minute runtime that might nudge casual watchers to wait for weekend matinees.
Final pre-sales ratios have varied for the MCU this year, with $85 million for Multiverse representing 45 percent of its $187 million opening weekend. Conversely, Love and Thunder‘s $48 million final pre-sales accounted for just 33 percent of its $144 million debut.
Social media metrics, as expected, are stellar for this sequel. Trailer views, mentions, and general sentiment are very encouraging, further bolstered by Rihanna’s personal social media footprint with the release of her song, “Lift Me Up”, attached to the film.
The mystique factor here, of course, is ultimately Chadwick Boseman and the expectation fans have that this film will be a memorial to both the actor and the character. Reviews suggest the film lives up to that promise from writer/director Ryan Coogler and Marvel brass.
For box office observers trying to separate the emotional from the objective, Boseman and Wakanda Forever has drawn comparisons to the unexpected losses of Heath Ledger and Paul Walker before the releases of The Dark Knight and Furious 7, respectively. Both went on to become the biggest performers of their respective franchises, though the total absence of Chadwick in this case doesn’t allow for any direct comparisons.
Now, everything comes down to walk-up business and audience reception and how action-packed the film feels to the masses with a fairly lengthy run time.
Disney is distributing the film at more than 4,300 domestic locations this weekend, including 400 IMAX auditoriums, 900 PLF screens, 2,800 3D locations, 270 D-Box/4D motion screens, and 75 ScreenX sites. Previews begin at 3pm on Thursday.
All-time, Wakanda Forever could be chasing some prestigious lists. Only 8 films have ever reached $200 million in one weekend (5 of them MCU-related, 3 of which were Avengers titles). An additional four MCU films have opened between $174 million and $191.3 million.
Somewhat incidentally, the biggest debut for a Disney-distributed release since Endgame set its historic record was July 2019’s The Lion King ($191.8 million).
On the international front, Wakanda Forever opens in virtually all markets day and date. The exceptions are China and Russia, which do not have releases set. Cautious industry expectations are around $150 million for the film’s international debut, though more bullish models are higher.
Long term, Wakanda faces minimal competition, even with a slew of counter-programmers later this month, until Avatar: The Way of Water arrives in mid-December. That should position the Marvel tentpole for a likely run in the vicinity of $500 million or more domestically.
Of note, this weekend also sees the platform release of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans via Universal and Amblin. The strongly reviewed early award season candidate is opening at 4 venues in New York (Lincoln Square and Union Square) and Los Angeles (The Grove and Century City) this Friday before a nationwide expansion on Wednesday, November 23 in time for Thanksgiving.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Opening Range: $170 – 205 million
Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections
Current projection ranges call for a 265 to 325 percent increase from last weekend’s $53.9 million top ten aggregate.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, November 13||Location Count Projection (as of Wed)||3-Day % Change from Last Wknd|
|Black Panther: Wakanda Forever||Disney & Marvel Studios||$192,000,000||$192,000,000||~4,300||NEW|
|Black Adam||Warner Bros. Pictures||$8,000,000||$150,000,000||~3,500||-56%|
|Ticket to Paradise||Universal Pictures||$6,000,000||$55,600,000||~3,700||-30%|
|Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile||Sony / Columbia Pictures||$2,100,000||$39,500,000||~2,700||-38%|
|One Piece Film: Red||Sony / Crunchyroll||$2,000,000||$13,600,000||~2,367||-79%|
|Prey for the Devil||Lionsgate||$1,800,000||$16,800,000||~2,300||-54%|
|The Banshees of Inisherin||Disney / Searchlight Pictures||$1,300,000||$5,300,000||~1,000||-37%|
|Till||MGM & United Artists Releasing||$1,100,000||$8,500,000||~1,700||-41%|
*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.
Theater counts are unofficial projections if presented with “~”.
The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.