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The box office opening of Marvel Studios and Disneys’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever provided all of Hollywood — and theater owners — with a much-needed pre-Thanksgiving feast after a brutal fall at the box office.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Wakanda Forever launched to a record $180 million domestically over the Nov. 11-13 weekend and $330 million globally despite the fact that the sequel had to proceed without Chadwick Boseman — who played the titular character in 2018’s Black Panther — after the actor died of cancer in August 2020.
“The film had a terrific opening weekend and resonated with all audiences. Marvel and Ryan Coogler did a phenomenal job addressing the unfortunate loss of Chadwick Boseman, and we’ve seen a tremendous response from fans as to how it respectfully honored his legacy,” said Tony Chambers, Disney’s theatrical distribution chief.
In 2018, 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.
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.
Here’s a look at the sequel’s accomplishments (and lingering questions).
Biggest November debut of all time in North America
The previous November record-holder was 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158.1 million), followed by 2009’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142.8 million), 2012’s The Twilight Saga — Breaking Dawn: Part 2 ($141 million), 2011’s The Twilight Saga — Breaking Dawn: Part 1 ($138.1 million) and 2019’s Frozen 2 ($130.3 million). Generally speaking, studio tentpoles usually open closer to Thanksgiving, so they tend to carry over into December. Marvel/Disney decided to go earlier with Wakanda.
Power to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Wakanda Forever‘s launch means that MCU movies — including Spider-Man: No Way Home, made in partnership with Sony — now account for nine of the top 15 opening weekends ever, not adjusted for inflation. That includes seven of the top 15 pandemic-era openings, led by No Way Home ($260 million) and followed by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187 million) and Wakanda Forever.
All told, the seven MCU movies released in 2021 and 2022 year to date have delivered roughly $2.3 billion in domestic box office sales, accounting for an estimated 21 market share of total box office share.
While Wakanda Forever couldn’t match the $202 million domestic opening of Coogler’s first Black Panther, it came in less than 11 percent behind the first film, a respectable drop considering the challenges that Cooger and Marvel faced.
And it came in only 4 percent behind Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and more than 25 percent ahead of 2022 summer Marvel pic Thor: Love and Thunder ($144.2 million).
Second-biggest launch of 2022 to date
The only film to earn more in its first weekend was Multiverse of Madness.
Coogler’s tentpole played to an ethnically diverse audience, led by Black moviegoers (34 percent) and followed by Caucasians (31 percent), Latinos (21 percent) and Asian/Other (14 percent), according to PostTrak. It also played more evenly gender-wise than most superhero films, with females making up 45 percent of the audience.
While Wakanda Forever debuted to a solid $150 million overseas, it didn’t have the advantage of a berth in China, where the first Black Panther earned more than $100 million over the course of its run. And Russia remains off-limits to Hollywood studio pics because of the war in Ukraine.
Disney notes that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still scored the No. 12 MCU opening of all time internationally. Europe was strong overall, led by the U.K. ($15 million) and followed by France ($13.7 million). Among all markets, Mexico placed third with $12.8 million, followed by South Korea ($8.9 million) and Brazil ($7.1 million). South Korea came in well behind the launch of Black Panther due to a Halloween tragedy in Seoul, where numerous people were killed (Marvel/Disney pulled all marketing in deference to the situation).
Time will tell
Wakanda Forever received an A CinemaScore from audiences and strong exits on PostTrak. However, the first Black Panther earned a coveted A+ on its way to grossing north of $1.38 billion globally. Disney and Marvel, of course, are counting on a long runway for Wakanda Forever throughout the Thanksgiving corridor and until fellow Disney tentpole Avatar opens on Dec. 16, but it’s too early to say where the Black Panther sequel will ultimately land globally.