By now, you’ve hopefully already read the weekend box office update, and you know that Marvel’s Black Panther has already grossed $300 million in just 8 and a half days. That’s the third-fastest a movie has reached that benchmark after Lucasfilms’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Universal’s Jurassic World. (Astute observers will realize that those two movies were produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, respectively, who just happen to be married.)
The question that keeps coming up even before Black Panther‘s second weekend is even over is, “How much will this movie be able to make?” The popular movie is already the fifth-biggest opener of all time domestically, and it keeps showing up in the top 3 or 5 of other all-time records including the #1 biggest gross on a Monday. (For the sake of my own sanity, I’m only going to deal with domestic box office in this analysis, because there are so many other factors when gauging international box office.)
Few people think Black Panther will be able to best Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ astounding all-time domestic gross of $936 million even with such a great start, but how about surpassing a number of long-time record holders?
For 12 years, James Cameron’s Titanic held the record for top domestic grosser with $659 million, an amount that was surpassed by Cameron’s next movie Avatar with $760 million… and then Marvel’s The Avengers came along and became only the third movie to gross more than $600 million, $623 million to be exact. Three years later, Jurassic World surpassed that amount and grossed $652 million.
Now think about those numbers for a second and be aware that only SIX movies EVER were able to make more than $600 million domestically. (Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the most recent one.) Surely, being halfway there after just one single week will put Black Panther into that rare company, but could it end up in the top 5 or even top 3 all-time domestic? Could be.
Let’s look at how much Black Panther is likely to end up with after this weekend with its project $102 to 103 million second weekend gross. That would put it at $395 million which is more than Sony’s Jumanji was able to make in its amazing ten-week run.
It’s hard to make comparisons with Cameron’s movies because they both opened moderately in December than took full advantage of the holidays to amass those amazing sums.
On the other hand, Jurassic World had already grossed $402 million by the end of its second weekend with a minimal 49% drop-off. It might be a stretch for Black Panther to make that amount by Sunday even though it has much weaker competition. (Jurassic World faced Pixar’s Inside Out in its second weekend and then Ted in its third.)
As far as Marvel’s The Avengers, another movie with an “A+” CinemaScore like Black Panther, it also grossed around $103 million in its second weekend but with a bigger drop from its opening weekend, it ended up with just $377 million by the end of its second weekend. You do have to remember that Black Panther had an advantage over The Avengers by having so many Thursday previews, which weren’t as prevalent in 2012 when The Avengers screenings only started at midnight.
That’s also ahead of the $368 million grossed by Star Wars: the Last Jedi at the end of its second weekend a few months back. Despite a huge 2nd weekend drop, that movie was helped by the holidays to make its way past $600 million.
Still, if you consider that The Avengers had so much more competition that summer, it’s amazing that it was able to gross $623 million total. Then again, that competition included such dogs as Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, the bomb Battleship and the forgettable MIB 3, so The Avengers was generally a better choice that month.
It’s very likely that Black Panther will be able to hold up well against the upcoming movies including Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, which opens on March 9, so that it can definitely end up making as much as The Last Jedi or The Avengers did.
But what about Jurassic World and even Titanic? Can Black Panther surpass their amazing box office showings?
Jurassic World did much better against stronger movies despite falling behind Inside Out eventually, but Black Panther will have to face all the March and April releases with similar big-budget action films like Tomb Raider and Pacific Rim: Uprising potentially stealing away business in mid-March.
Either way, Black Panther will have grossed $400 million by end-of-day on Monday and if it can make around $80 million next week, that’s close to $500 million by the time A Wrinkle in Time even opens.
It certainly seems feasible that Black Panther can make another $150 million in the remainder of its domestic theatrical run even as it slowly makes its way out of the top 10.
So to answer the above question, it seems likely that Black Panther will surpass The Avengers and end up in the same $650 million range as Titanic and Jurassic World, vying to become the third-largest domestic grosser ever.
There’s a slight chance that it might even make $700 million, but that’s going to be tougher, especially once it gets through April and has to face Marvel’s next big release Avengers: Infinity War… and that’s very likely to be shooting for similar box office records.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor