To say that the astronomical success of Black Panther was unexpected, is so much of an understatement that it's almost insulting, not only to the movie itself, but to the notion of what anything "unexpected" truly may be. Despite a rich history, dating back to 1966 when he became the first superhero of African descent in mainstream comics, T'challa (Chadwick Boseman) was rarely seen as a major character. Fittingly, Black Panther's arc from relative obscurity to blockbuster sensation on the big screen is quite similar to how Tony Stark and his Iron Man persona was seen by comics fans, before Robert Downey Jr. brought that character to life in 2008 for the first time, giving birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Now that Black Panther is a bona fide sensation, we're breaking down why it's astronomical success is such a monumental feat.
Before we break down the numbers, we must first actually present the numbers. As of now, Black Panther has earned $612.1 million at the domestic box office, along with $590.4 million in international markets, for a worldwide tally of $1.202 billion. It currently stands as the seventh highest-grossing movie at the domestic box office, and could very well pass Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($619.8 million) for sixth place and The Avengers ($623.3 million) for fifth place in a matter of days. When it passes The Avengers, it will not only become the highest-grossing MCU movie at the domestic box office, but also the highest-grossing domestic superhero movie, period. All of these numbers are impressive... but when you take into consideration a number of other factors, including the fact that it put up these numbers in February and March, instead of the more lucrative summer months, it's clear that Black Panther is quite special, in more ways than one.
Black Panther has also set a number of unconventional records that have made headlines of late, like last weekend, when it became the first movie since Avatar in late 2009 and early 2010, to win five straight weekends in a row at the box office. Avatar actually won seven straight weekends before being dethroned in frame #8 by Dear, John, of all movies, but that's neither here nor there. Black Panther has also been a juggernaut on social media as well, with Twitter announcing this week that Black Panther has amassed a whopping 35 million tweets, surpassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to become the most tweeted-about movie of all time.
Regardless of whether or not Black Panther will climb any higher than expected on the all-time charts, its run has been one for the ages, and one that is quite worthy of a deeper dissection. With that in mind, we have broken down 10 different aspects of Black Panther's box office run, delving deep through the charts to break down why this is an important movie that studios should be examining now, and for years to come, in terms of everything from socio-political issues like inclusion and diversity, to the numerous box office myths this movie was able to dispel. With that in mind, take a look at our 10 reasons why Black Panther's box office success is so important.
Black Panther doubled its initial projection.
Black Panther initial box office predictions
Usually anywhere between four and six weeks before any given movie opens, box office analysts dole out their early projections, which are often adjusted up, or sometimes down, depending on the buzz a particular movie is getting from critics, early fan screenings and other factors. Before Deadpool opened in practically the same mid-February frame Black Panther did, analysts projected a $50 million opening for the R-rated superhero movie, which some even considered generous. It ended up earning $132.4 million, an all-time record for an R-rated movie, so these projections are anything but an exact science. In late January, the first projections came in for Black Panther, putting its opening weekend between $100 million and $120 million. It ended up opening at $202 million ($242.1 million with the four-day President's Day holiday), the highest debut ever for the month of February, and the fifth highest opening in history.
Blockbusters aren't exclusively summer movies anymore.
Black Panther vs Wonder Woman box office
For decades, the studios have been targeting the summer months for all of their blockbuster "tentpole" fare, for sound and obvious reasons. The most important of these reasons are that all of the kids between 13 and 17 are on summer vacation and can frequent their local theater with more freedom than they could on say a school night with homework. Even with the last three Star Wars movies opening to huge numbers in mid-December, the kids are on break then too. Still, in more recent years, movies like The Hunger Games ($152.5 million debut in mid-March 2012) and even R-rated fare like Fifty Shades of Grey ($166.1 million debut in early February 2015) and Deadpool ($132.4 million debut in mid-February 2016) have proved that the right movie, targeting the right audience, can still put up summer-like numbers. Even with all that being said, Black Panther went above and beyond, putting up the only debut over $200 million for a movie that didn't debut in the summer or over the December holiday season.
It Came close to breaking The Force Awakens' Sunday record.
Black Panther Box Office Sunday Record
While that doesn't sound super-impressive on its own, a day-to-day breakdown of the Black Panther opening weekend reveals some incredible consistency. The record for the highest daily gross for any Sunday in history, unsurprisingly, belongs to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which took in $60.5 million on the Sunday during its opening weekend. The Force Awakens also holds the daily record for Friday ($119.1 million), but it has the third highest Saturday gross ($68.2 million), just behind The Avengers ($69.5 million) and Jurassic World ($69.9 million). The Force Awakens dropped 42.7% between Friday and Saturday, and another 11.3% between Saturday and Sunday. Black Panther didn't have nearly as impressive a first day ($75.9 million) as The Force Awakens, but it only dropped 13.1% on Saturday ($65.9 million) and just 9% on Sunday ($60.06 million), to come oh so close to the Sunday record.
Black Panther still put up strong weekday numbers, too.
Black Panther Box Office Weekdays
After its record-breaking opening weekend, Black Panther was still putting up strong numbers during the week. It took in an impressive $40.15 million on Monday, the President's Day holiday, which actually out-grossed the $40.10 million Star Wars: The Force Awakens put up on the Monday after its opening weekend. While that Monday wasn't a holiday like President's Day, most schools were already on their holiday break, so they both had the same advantage of young kids with a day off of school. While its numbers for the following weekdays couldn't quite match up to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens figures, the movie still fared quite well on Tuesday ($20.8 million), ($14.6 million), and Thursday ($14.2 million), before putting up a strong second weekend of $111.6 million, dropping 44.7% from its opening weekend.
Huge international totals dispels myths of black movies abroad.
Black Panther International Box Office
One of the biggest and most unspoken "myths" in terms of Hollywood box office performance is that "black movies," or movies with predominantly African-American cast members, underperform, or flat-out flop at the box office. While movies like Get Out scored big in the U.S. ($176 million from a $4.5 million budget), it didn't fare quite as well overseas ($78.9 million), and you can look to others in the past such as Barbershop ($75.7 million domestic, $1.2 million foreign) that supported the myth in the past, but no longer. In fact, Black Panther is split almost right down the middle, with its $612.1 million domestic take (50.9%) nearly equalling the foreign haul of $590.4 million (49.1%), while all three of Marvel's 2017 movies, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (45.1% domestic), Spider-Man: Homecoming (38% domestic) and Thor: Ragnarok (36.9% domestic) skewed more heavily towards international markets. While its domestic tally is undeniably impressive, its international haul has been turning heads as well, especially when taking into consideration one important fact...
Black Panther didn't need China to succeed overseas.
Black Panther China
Marvel movies have been big hits in China in recent years, and while Black Panther opened big in China earlier this month with $65.1 million, it has dropped off severely, with a Middle Kingdom total of $95.9 million. While that is currently good enough to be the top international market for Black Panther, it falls short of the last three MCU movies, Thor: Ragnarok ($112.2 million), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($116.2 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($100.6 million). Still, Black Panther has put up strong numbers in the U.K. ($59.6 million), South Korea ($42.6 million) and Brazil ($32.7 million). Black Panther has already put up bigger international numbers than Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and to do that while earning less in China that all of those other movies, is quite a feat.
Marvel Is making bank on Black Panther merchandise.
Black Panther Soundtrack
Black Panther's box office success is undoubtedly impressive, but that success has also helped Marvel and Disney earn some big bucks in other areas as well. We reported earlier this month that there has been a huge surge in Black Panther merchandise sales, which could be upwards of $250 million this year, and that doesn't count sales from unofficial products. The Black Panther soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, debuted atop the Billboard 200 album sales charts for its first two weeks in a row, before dropping to second in its third week and returning to the top spot in its fourth week. Black Panther also set another unique record recently, becoming the most tweeted-about movie of all time, with over 35 million tweets and counting.
It Will take down Avengers as biggest MCU movie with no huge stars.
Black Panther Biggest Superhero Movie All-Time
What may be one of the most impressive aspects of Black Panther's run is that it's almost the antithesis of The Avengers, which brought together all of these established stars in one movie, and it set a high-water mark that hasn't been beaten by any other Marvel movie... until now. While Black Panther hasn't officially broken The Avengers' MCU domestic box office record of $623.3 million, it will do so within the next few days, breaking a box office record that not even some of the MCU's other star-studded movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War could top. What makes Black Panther's run all that more impressive is it did brought in all this money without the traditional allure of "star-power" that so many other movies, MCU adventures included, rely on. While Chadwick Boseman is most certainly a talented, accomplished and respected actor, he certainly didn't have the same "drawing power" as Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans. Black Panther has perhaps the most well-rounded cast of any Marvel movie, with established talent like Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and breakout star Letitia Wright. The fact that this cast of incredibly talented actors can take down one of the biggest blockbusters of all time is an incredible testament to their talent, and the powerful story they put on the big screen.
Black Panther Is only director Ryan Coogler's third movie.
Black Panther Ryan Cooler Director
There has been a recent Hollywood trend where studios take the director of a beloved indie and hand them the keys to a blockbuster franchise. It worked well for directors like Gareth Edwards, who went from the low-budget Monsters to the epic tentpole Godzilla, and Colin Trevorrow, who went from Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic World. Ryan Coogler took an extra step in between, going from beloved indie film (Fruitvale Station) to reinventing an iconic franchise (Creed), before stepping into the big-budget tentpole space. It's quite remarkable what Coogler has been able to achieve in just a stretch of three movies, all of which, by the way, star Michael B. Jordan. His talent is unquestionable, and at just 31 years of age, he'll most likely just keep getting better and better with each movie he makes. There has been no official word on Black Panther 2 yet, but that should be coming sooner rather than later, and hopefully we'll have Mr. Coogler back at the helm.
Black Panther proves audiences want diversity.
It's been quite clear over the past few years that audiences have been craving more diversity in theaters, whether it be with Moonlight's Best Picture win, or Get Out's astronomical box office success. Black Panther wasn't just another Marvel superhero movie, it was one with an almost entirely black cast, save for Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis, that debuted in what is traditionally one of the "weaker" box office months, that has become one of the most successful movies of all time, bar-none.
I've lived in Hollywood for the past 10 years, and my theater of choice has always been the Arclight Hollywood. One of the perks of this theater is it also has a full restaurant and bar inside, and, my usual "tradition" is to have a few drinks and hang out before seeing any given movie. When I went to see Black Panther on the Thursday before its opening weekend, I had literally never seen the theater, bar and restaurant so packed in one night, ever. The energy there, even before the screening, was unlike anything I had ever seen. If the studios can learn anything from Black Panther's success, it's that there is an enormous part of the movie-going public that, despite being so underrepresented in the past, still will show up, when they're presented on screen in meaningful and empowering ways.