Black Panther: Wakanda Forever debuts at number one at the box office, but is tracking lower than originally projected, potentially on par with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Marvel Studios had been banking on the reportedly $250 million production to reach the same level of success as 2018’s Black Panther which starred the late Chadwick Boseman. However, the critic scores for Wakanda Forever quickly dropped on its opening day. And now, it seems multiple factors are already affecting the immediate and long-term financial success of the sequel at the domestic and global box office.
Deadline reports that the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther is not performing internationally as initially anticipated. The report attributes the decline to the long running time and lack of action, as well as current events:
The sequel is indeed coming in lower internationally than we projected. This is in part due to Asia Pacific not performing as expected. We knew that Korea was a point of concern given the market is coming out of a mourning period following a national tragedy, and we are also hearing that the length of the film and its limited action are affecting numbers in the region.
Box Office Pro initially projected a $180 million to $225 million for the Ryan Coogler-directed movie on its opening weekend. Plus, the prediction for the final domestic run was for it to gross $445 million and $590 million.
However, the projections have declined since then. After the early returns for the weekend came in, the current projections have dropped to between $174 million and $184 million for the opening weekend in North America, with the total domestic gross being predicted to be around $435 million to $543 million.
Note that the current weekend gross being reported actually includes the $28 million early Thursday previews. While Wakanda Forever will pass the opening weekend gross of the first Black Panther film ($158.1 million), it now seems unlikely that it will reach the $1 billion plus haul. That will still place Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as the second best opening for 2022 and the 10th biggest theatrical opening record.
Wakanda Forever brought in $84 million for its opening, including the previews. To put into perspective, the Black Panther sequel is trending higher than the box office for Thor: Love and Thunder ($69.5 million opening day, including $29 million from previews). But it is behind the opening record of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($90.7 million opening day, including $36 million returns from previews).
One factor that may influence the overall success of Wakanda Forever is its timing. The movie had the benefit of being shown on Veterans Day in the U.S., with many grade school, middle school, and high school levels closed for the holiday. Thanks to its favorable release date, it allowed for potentially more people to go out and watch the film on its opening weekend.
Another important factor to consider is the movie’s length. With its 2 hour and 41 minute running time, most of the casual moviegoers will be unlikely to return for repeat viewings of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Audience and critics’ reactions, such as on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, have commented on the film being too long for the story it is trying to tell.
As top critic Anupama Chopra (Film Companion) puts it:
The opening and closing sequences of Wakanda Forever will make your heart ache. But at 2hrs 41mins, this is also one of the longest films in the MCU. And there are long stretches in it which border on boredom. I was weepy but also weary.
Finally, a key element that will likely affect Wakanda Forever’s goal of making the billion dollar club is that the first movie did particularly well in China. Black Panther opened to $65 million in the Chinese market, with a total gross of $105 million.
But according to sources, Wakanda Forever will likely be banned in China due to the state censors thumbing down on any LGBTQ+ content. While Wakanda Forever does not have any overt scenes of same-sex relationships among the characters, there is a brief acknowledgement and shared moment shown at one point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four movie.
Although Wakanda Forever might not be able to reach the billion dollar mark, it may still reach the similar level of success as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen remains the best opening day release for 2022 and has a worldwide gross of $955.7 million.
Based on the Marvel Comics character, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stars Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Tenoch Huerta, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Michaela Coel.
Produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore, and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters right now.