Long Range Forecast: Is Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Poised to Become 2018’s First Blockbuster?

This week’s Long Range Forecast welcomes the latest chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as other notable updates for mid-February releases.

Black Panther
Disney / Marvel Studios

PROS:

  • Marvel Studios’ unprecedented winning streak at the box office is the first obvious advantage that comes to mind as mastermind Kevin Feige and the teams under Disney’s banner have shepherded all 17 previous films in the saga to #1 openings and massive box office earnings.
  • The character’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War was warmly received by fans, giving those unfamiliar with the character’s history in the comics some familiarity going into his first standalone film.
  • Writer/Director Ryan Coogler has garnered critical and audience acclaim for his work on Creed and Fruitvale Station, offering further encouragement and interest in how he’ll handle his first big-budget film.
  • As the first tentpole comic book adaptation from Marvel or any other major studio to star an African-American lead (excluding 2008’s Hancock) — not to mention a predominately African-American cast — this film has already become a milestone. If strong reviews and word of mouth follow, it could hit the cultural zeitgeist in a similar way as Wonder Woman did last summer.
  • Opening over Presidents Day weekend will afford the opportunity for families to boost attendance on Sunday. If everything fires on all cylinders, a $100 million+ opening weekend wouldn’t be out of the question.
  • Trailer reactions have been very strong from fans and casual viewers alike, while early social media tracking positions Black Panther well ahead of the Twitter and Facebook activity levels Doctor Strange was generating at the same point before release. Given the latter film’s huge success — and that it was Marvel’s most recent origin story with a character never before seen on screen — we’re expecting a similar run for Panther even on the conservative end of possibilities if the final product wows audiences.
  • This is essentially the only tentpole release on the 2018 calendar until March. Competition will be minimal for the majority of its run.
  • Following a year filled to the brim with critically and commercially successful superhero films in 2017, audiences are clearly still hungry for the genre when the right film comes along.

CONS:

  • Social media buzz hasn’t reached the levels of Wonder Woman yet, although that’s hardly anything to be concerned about as DC and Marvel films often diverge in pre-release tracking trends.
  • It would be unreasonable to expect *every* Marvel film to shatter box office expectations, particularly one with very little established on-screen history for the character in question. While the studio’s Ant-Man ($180 million domestic) could be a fair barometer for low-end box office expectations, we think buzz around Panther is strong enough to warrant more bullish forecasts at this time.

This Week’s Other Notes:

  • Social media tracking for 12 Strong has picked up in recent weeks, approaching the levels of 2016’s 13 Hours.
  • The 15:17 to Paris have been added below following last week’s trailer release.
  • Also opening on February 16 against Black Panther are Early Man and Samson, although both currently have modest expectations behind themInitial forecasts are below.

The 8-Week Forecast:

Release Date Title 3-Day Wide Opening % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total % Chg from Last Week Location Count Distributor
12/29/2017 (no films scheduled currently)
1/5/2018 Insidious: The Last Key $19,500,000 $34,500,000 3,000 Universal
1/5/2018 Molly’s Game $8,000,000 $28,000,000 1,500 STXfilms
1/12/2018 The Commuter $12,000,000 $31,000,000 Lionsgate
1/12/2018 Condorito: La Pelicula $5,000,000 $12,500,000 Lionsgate
1/12/2018 Paddington 2 $19,000,000 $70,000,000 Warner Bros.
1/12/2018 The Post (expansion) $20,000,000 $90,000,000 Fox
1/12/2018 Proud Mary $17,000,000 $55,000,000 Sony / Screen Gems
1/19/2018 12 Strong $13,000,000 30% $42,000,000 17% Warner Bros.
1/19/2018 Den of Thieves $6,500,000 $13,000,000 STXfilms
1/19/2018 Forever My Girl n/a n/a Roadside Attractions
1/26/2018 Maze Runner: The Death Cure $24,000,000 $65,000,000 Fox
2/2/2018 2018 Cloverfield Movie n/a n/a Paramount
2/2/2018 Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built $10,000,000 $28,000,000 Lionsgate / CBS Films
2/9/2018 The 15:17 to Paris $16,000,000 NEW $50,000,000 NEW Warner Bros.
2/9/2018 Fifty Shades Freed $40,000,000 $100,000,000 Universal
2/9/2018 The Hurricane Heist n/a n/a Entertainment Studios
2/9/2018 Peter Rabbit $25,000,000 $103,000,000 Sony / Columbia
2/16/2018 Black Panther $90,000,000 NEW $275,000,000 NEW Disney
2/16/2018 Early Man $4,000,000 NEW $20,000,000 NEW Lionsgate / Summit
2/16/2018 Samson $3,500,000 NEW $13,000,000 NEW Pure Flix
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