Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther” is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — all of which have opened at No. 1 — but it is not connected to the studio’s other superhero characters. For Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther, that re-teaming will come in May, when “Avengers: Infinity War” arrives.
“Black Panther” also scored the biggest pre-summer three-day debut, and is just the fifth film to debut north of $200 million (not adjusting for inflation), topped only by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($248 million), “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” ($220 million), “Jurassic World” ($208.8 million) and “The Avengers” ($207.4 million).
“Black Panther,” which opened on more than 4,000 screens, also enjoyed the biggest Presidents’ Day four-day opening ever, with a domestic debut of at least $235 million, reports Box Office Mojo. The film was powered in part by the second-largest Thursday preview night ever ($25.2 million), as well as the second-biggest Sunday in film history ($60.1 million), notching just behind “The Force Awakens” ($60.6 million), reports Variety.
Sparked largely by the “Black Panther Challenge,” hundreds of free screenings and campaign drives helped deliver many disadvantaged young viewers and children of color to see the film.
“Black Panther” spotlights a black director and black co-writers, a nearly all-black cast (and zero white Americans in featured roles), as well as top “below the line” black talent and a soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar. The cast includes not only frequent Coogler actor Michael B. Jordan, but also such Oscar-winning actors as Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker and the Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya.
“Black Panther” also represents the biggest domestic debut by a black director.
“Black Panther” was buoyed by high critical and audience marks and cross-demographic appeal. Nearly half of the film’s North American audience was female and more than 60 percent was older than 25, according to audience tracking, and the movie received an “A-plus” audience CinemaScore.
“Black Panther” scored a 97 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the highest score for an MCU movie — and an average score of 88 on the review-aggregate site Metacritic. And Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) has one of the best three-film starts to a modern live-action feature career, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
“Black Panther” had a production budget of about $200 million, according to trade reports. Marvel has shown a willingness to spend more, and on more diverse fare, since Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige wrested control away from Marvel chief executive Ike Perlmutter in 2015.
Globally, “Black Panther” has grossed $404 million, reflecting a strong overseas reception. The film, like the comic, is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
The movie has yet to open in such large overseas markets as China, Russia and Japan, so there are high-yield foreign audiences still to be mined.
This post has been updated.