With Black Panther approaching its fourth weekend in theaters, there is no question that it will reach the $1 billion plateau, but how soon it reaches this milestone remains to be seen. The MCU blockbuster has taken in $506.4 million domestic and an equally impressive $403.4 million in international markets for a worldwide total of $909.8 million, and it's possible that its final international market, China, where it opens on March 9, could be enough to put it over $1 billion. While most Marvel movies take in over $100 million in the Middle Kingdom, a strong showing there could vault it even higher up the all-time box office charts, in rather impressive fashion.
For several years, the conventional "wisdom" about black-centric movies like Black Panther is that they don't make too much money overseas, a myth that has most certainly been shattered by Black Panther. The movie is about to surpass the international totals of Wonder Woman ($409.3 million) and Justice League ($428.8 million) in just its fourth week in theaters. Still, some box office analysts wonder if race could play a factor at the Chinese box office for Black Panther, especially after a Chinese poster surfaced that featured a masked T'challa (Chadwick Boseman) while the American poster features the character without a mask.
There had been speculation that the studio may have been trying to "hide" the character's African roots from Chinese audiences, but it was later revealed to be a fan-made poster. In fact, in the week leading up to the Chinese release, Chinese ticketing website Mayona revealed that over 250,000 registered users had placed "want-to-see" votes for Black Panther. Here's what James Li, co-founder of Beijing-based market research firm Fanink, had to say about the "want-to-see" votes cast for Black Panther by Chinese moviegoers.
"That's a pretty good number for a Hollywood movie. Looking at the prerelease heat in the market right now, it looks like Black Panther will perform like a standard U.S. superhero movie; but it probably won't do really huge box office unless the word of mouth turns out to be very strong."
Other Marvel movies like Black Panther, which serve as "character-launch" movies, have fared rather well in China, with Guardians of the Galaxy pulling in $86 million, Ant-Man earning $105 million and Doctor Strange pulling in $109 million. Black Panther does have a slight advantage over those movies, though, since the character was introduced in the 2016 blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, which earned $180.7 million in China, by far the biggest total for any international market. USC professor Stan Rosen, who specializes in the Chinese film industry, believes Black Panther presents a real "test case" for Chinese audiences, as to whether they will grasp the cultural impact of the movie, of if they will view it as "just another superhero movie." He also adds that the massive success of the Chinese hit Wolf Warrior 2, which featured Africa as major setting, could also help open new doors for Black Panther. Here's what he had to say below.
"Since Wolf Warrior 2 was such a hit and introduced Africa as a setting to the Chinese audience, it will be interesting to see if Black Panther's mythical African kingdom of Wakanda might also be a hook to draw people in."
Wolf Warrior 2, which starred Jing Wu and American star Frank Grillo, earned just $2.7 million in the U.S., but broke Chinese box office records with a whopping $854.2 million from just China alone, with a worldwide total of $867.6 million, which was the seventh highest grossing movie worldwide last year, beating out Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($863.8 million), Thor: Ragnarok ($853.8 million) and Wonder Woman ($821.8 million), with essentially no help from the American box office. You can visit The Hollywood Reporter for their full report on Black Panther's Chinese bow on March 9.