6:40am PT by Pamela McClintock
Box-Office Preview: 'Black Panther' Set to Maul 'Deadpool' February Opening Record
Disney and Marvel Studios' Black Panther is set to make history at the Presidents Day box office.
If tracking is correct, the critically acclaimed superhero film will take in $165 million-plus over the long four-day weekend in North America, the top showing ever for both the holiday frame and the month of February. Black Panther will snatch the record from another superhero film, Deadpool, which took in $152.2 million over Presidents Day weekend in 2016.
A $165 million-plus opening would also be one of the top five or six domestic openings ever for a superhero film, not accounting for inflation. Some box-office observers actually believe $165 million is too low an estimate.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is unprecedented in being a big-budget studio tentpole featuring a virtually all-black cast. In the film, Chadwick Boseman stars as T'Challa/Black Panther, alongside Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.
When Black Panther, which cost $200 million to produce before marketing, first came on tracking two weeks ago, Hollywood's leading tracking service NRG forecast a domestic opening of $125 million. By last week, that number had shot up to $150 million-plus. On Tuesday, it was revised upwards to $165 million-plus.
The big unknown is how Black Panther will fare overseas, where Hollywood films with a black cast are thought to face challenges. Disney insiders expect the pic to open abroad in the $75 million-$115 million range. The tentpole rolls out in about 70 percent of the international marketplace this week. Major territories where it doesn't open until later include Russia (Feb. 22), Japan (March 1) and China (March 9).
The critically acclaimed movie currently boasts a stellar 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, the best of any title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that could change by opening day) or the rival DC Extended Universe. On Thursday, ticketing service Fandango reported Black Panther is its No. 4 pre-seller of all time, trailing recent Star Wars films The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and Rogue One (2016).
The only movies daring to open nationwide opposite Black Panther are Lionsgate and Aardman Animation's family film Early Man, which is tracking to open in the $5 million range, and PureFlix's faith-based pic Samson, which is eyeing no more than $3 million in its launch.