Sunday February 18, 2018
Box Office: Black Panther Roars to $192 Million Record-Breaking Opening
This is how the world changes: not with a bang but a ka-ching.
OK, there was a bang in there, too.
In case you didn't hear, three movies opened this weekend:
- “Samson,” a “bargain-bin Biblical epic” whose main critical watchword appears to be “sluggish”—although it is the kind of thing right-wing Christians have demanded from Hollywood for years. It grossed $1.9 million and finished in 10th place.
- “Early Man,” a British stop-action animation from the makers of “Wallace and Grommit.” It grossed $3.1 million and finished in 7th place.
- “Black Panther,” about the titular Wakandan/Marvel superhero, starring Chadwick Boseman (“42,” “Get On Up,” “Marshall”—basically every 20th-century African-American icon), and directed by Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”). It got great reviews (97% at RT) and grossed $192 million. It finished in 1st place. With a fucking bullet.
You could actually say “Black Panther” finished in 5th place since that's where its $192 mil places it on the all-time opening weekend chart. Only “The Avengers,” “Jurassic World,” and “Star Wars” VII and VIII opened better.
I wish I saw it coming. Not even close. I always thought of Black Panther as a minor character in the Marvel universe. Even among black characters in the Marvel universe, I would‘ve placed him behind Luke Cage and maybe the Falcon. And here he’s blowing everybody away. He's blowing Batman and Superman away. He reigns.
Plus it's February. You know the biggest all-time Feb. opening before this? “Deadpool” at $132 million two years ago. Then “Fifty Shades of Grey” at $85 and “Passion of the Christ” at $84. It's not a big box-office month. February has generally been a dumping ground for shitty romances (“Valentine's Day,” “The Vow”), cut-rate Christian movies (“Son of God,” “Risen”), and second-rate superheroes (“Daredevil,” “Ghost Rider”). Maybe that's what Buena Vista originally thought “Black Panther” was. Or maybe they saw unstaked territory. But I doubt they saw $192.
Here's the records “Black Panther” has already shattered:
- Biggest Feb. opening
- Biggest single-character Marvel opening
- Biggest single-character superhero opening
But that's actually downplaying the achievement. This feels like a game-changer. $192 million is something even Hollywood can't ignore.
Would it be wrong to suggest that some part of this box office feels like a reaction against our cultural times? That if Trump wasn't in the White House, “Black Panther” would‘ve done well but not $192 million well? Unprovable, of course. And just a sense. Raising the question: Has some part of our box office become politicized? We go to the theater to hear/see what we’re not hearing/seeing in the public/political realms. Or what we think we‘re not hearing in the public/political realm. During the Obama years, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” broke January box-office records; but with Trump fulminating in the Oval Office the same people couldn't be bothered to see Clint Eastwood's “The 15:17 to Paris,” which, after two weekends, stands at $25 mil. The right-wing crazies don't need that fix; they get it every day on Twitter.
I was curious how Breitbart's Big Hollywood was dealing with BP's huge weekend. Doesn't it go against what they always argue? That Hollywood does poorly at the box office because conservative values aren't honored by Hollywood liberals? So how are they justifying this? So I went there. And no, you don't want to know. Their critic, John Nolte, is arguing that “Black Panther” is not a movie about race but about values. Conservative values. Nolte is actually arguing that Black Panther is Trump while the villain is Black Lives Matter. Yes. Yes, he is.
Patricia and I see the movie tomorrow.
Breitbart can spin however it wants, this is a roar. This is such a roar that everyone has to pay attention. It's James Baldwin's line backed by money: “The world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”
UPDATE: The actuals were better than the estimates, as “BP” grossed $202 million for the three-day weekend (still fifth-best) and $242 million if you include Presidents' Day (when Patricia and I saw it in a packed Cinerama Theater). That's the second-best four-day total ever—after only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Seems an unintended but fitting revenge for “American Sniper” setting box-office records on MLK weekend, of all holidays. Oh, and Nolte's an idiot. The Panther isn't Trump. Maintaining Wakanda's secrecy, and its borders, is the one thing T‘Challa does wrong; it’s the sin he must rectify. And does. Does anyone ever call any of these guys on this shit?