The first big blockbuster of 2018 arrives with authority this President's Day Weekend, as the first of this year's super hero films makes its way to theaters, this one, a much more significant entry in the genre for a whole number of reasons.
Weekend Forecast for February 16-8, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
February 16, 2018
Black Panther may not be the first black-led super hero movie, as that honor falls to Spawn, or even for Marvel, which actually kicked off their Silver Age of movies with Blade, but it is the most significantly black film in the Marvel oeuvre. Based on the character introduced in Civil War and set in the fictional, secretly technologically advanced nation of Wakanda, the cast is almost completely made up of black actors, save appearances from Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis, reprising characters from Civil War and Age of Ultron, respectively.
Chadwick Boseman continues as T'Challa, the new King of Wakanda following the death of his father, and the keeper of the Black Panther title. He then faces a challenge to his throne from an exiled Wakandan, Erik Killmonger (subtle), played by Michael B. Jordan, going against type. A revolutionary, were he to win, he might release all of Wakanda's technology to the black market, threatening the world's stability.
The cast also includes basically every young black actor of note, including Oscar nominees/winners Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker , along with Sterling K. Brown, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira. Directed by Ryan Coogler of Fruitvale Station and Creed fame, it's a film that just bleeds cool, and like a few of the recent big Marvel Universe films, actually has a “capital P” Point with a genuine moral conflict to go along with the intricately choreographed stunts and stellar visuals.
Reviews are... reverent, unlike anything we've really seen before with regards to the MCU, maybe with the exception of the first Avengers film (which feels awfully quaint now, just go back and watch it). Part of this may be its relatively unique viewpoint, but it does seem like it's reached a new level for Marvel films. This decently obscure character is possibly now the building block for whatever Marvel has planned past the Infinity War films.
Box office wise, this is looking like it's Deadpooling, where the hype is building on hype and expanding the opening weekend beyond all reason and expectations. A magic combination of quality, thematic relevance and timing (there's never been a better moment for a socially aware comic movie) and over the holiday weekend, this could threaten some of the higher grossing films in the MCU. The ratchet effect is fully in place, where second or third tier characters like Doctor Strange get opening weekends that are double what first tier characters got five years ago. Black Panther's status is yet to be determined, but it announces itself as a major player in the box office with an astounding $175 million in three days.
It may be news to lots of people, but there are other new wide releases this weekend. Among them is Early Man, the latest from Aardman studios, home of Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit movies. This one does what it says on the box, going back to the Stone Age, on the dawn of the Bronze Age, where caveman Eddie Redmayne must fight to save his home from man of the future Tom Hiddlestone. Being an English film, this somehow involves playing soccer. With a heavily British cast (biggest names, Maisie Willians and Richard Ayoade), it's a little difficult to sell this side of the Atlantic, and Aardman's stop motion technique has seen its novelty wear off somewhat.
Reviews are quite solid on this and they've never really made a dud, per se, but their box office grosses have never approached their initial successes, and Shaun the Sheep, admittedly targeted very young, only grossed $20 million domestic (while being a decent success worldwide, mainly in Britain). That's a safe bet here again, and it should open to about $8 million.
Religious pic Samson (you know, the guy with the hair) also opens, albeit in around 1,200 venues. Coming from the studio behind God's Not Dead and Mom's Night Out, there is that chance for a breakout, but also among their films are a bunch of films that ended up in the $2 million total domestic range. This is their first attempt at a straight telling of a Bible story, but unless Billy Zane and something called Jackson Rathbone are bigger draws than I'd expect, this should wash in at around $3 million.
Fifty Shades Freed finally wrapped up the paean to vanilla BDSM that was reallllly all about domesticity with a $38 million opening weekend, less than half the start of the original. As with the previous two, it was insanely frontloaded even within its opening weekend, with close to half of that coming on Friday. Things are pretty firmly established at this point for its behavior, and it should yielf the top spot (duh) by falling to about $17 million this frame.
Family film Peter Rabbit brought in a little over $25 million, and should survive the weekend just fine, seeing how it's going after an audience that likely can't even get in to Black Panther. With family film legs, it should add about $16 million this weekend.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle still, *still* maintained its legs, even against direct competition, falling an absurdly low 8% in its eighth weekend, averaging a 17% drop since that time. Projections are pretty impossible when things like this happen, but it's relatively certain that $400 million is happening. Give it $8 million this weekend. The 15:17 to Paris opened to $12 million, and beyond its weird stunt casting move, doesn't seem like it'll really be remembered for all that much. I'd expect $7 million here.