Weekend Box Office: 'Black Panther' Defeating 'Tomb Raider'
Faith-based film 'I Can Only Imagine' — the huge surprise of the weekend — and 'Love, Simon' each earn a coveted A+ CinemaScore.
Unless Alicia Vikander's Tomb Raider unearths unexpected treasure, it's on course to lose the weekend box-office crown to ruling champ Black Panther, according to early Friday returns.
The female-led action-adventure won the Friday race with $9.1 million from 3,980 theaters for a $24 million weekend, but Disney and Marvel's Black Panther is expected to pull ahead on Saturday for a weekend haul of $29 million from 3,834 theaters as it races past the $600 million mark domestically.
Black Panther will be the first film since Avatar eight years ago to top the chart for five consecutive weekends. The history-making tentpole will finish Sunday with a domestic total of nearly $610 million, and is only days away from overtaking fellow Marvel film The Avengers ($623 million) to become the top-grossing superhero film of all time in North America, unadjusted for inflation.
It remains to be seen whether Tomb Raider, from Warner Bros. and MGM, can restart the film series about an adventurous archeologist and action hero that's based on the videogame. This time out, Lara Croft (Vikander) embarks on a dangerous journey to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance. Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug (The Wave) directed the $90 million film, which co-stars Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The movie's Friday gross included $2.1 million in Thursday night previews.
Tomb Raider, costing a net $90 million to produce before marketing, will need to be a strong performer overseas, where Warners says it is off to a strong start since landing in select Asian markets last weekend. On Friday, the movie continued to roll out internationally, earning $21 million for an early foreign total of $45.6 million. Tomb Raider is claiming the No. 1 spot in China, where it opened to $12.1 million on Friday and earned another $16 million-plus on Saturday.
In North America, Tomb Raider looks to come in at No. 2, followed by Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, now in its second weekend. A Wrinkle in Time is expected to earn a decline of 47 percent or more to roughly $17 million.
The big surprise of the weekend is Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate's faith-based film I Can Only Imagine, which grossed $6.2 million on Friday from 1,628 cinemas for a projected $14 million debut — double what it was supposed to do.
The film stars J. Michael Finley as Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, who wrote "I Can Only Imagine," considered to be the most popular song in Christian music history. Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman also star in the film, which cost $7 million to make.
I Can Only Imagine looks to come in ahead of Fox's YA adaptation Love, Simon, the first film from a major Hollywood studio featuring a gay teen protagonist. Love, Simon grossed $4.6 million on Friday from 2,402 theaters for a projected $12 million weekend, in line with expectations.
Greg Berlanti directed the Fox 2000 dramedy, which stars Nick Robinson as Simon Spier, a closeted high schooler who tries to find out the identity of an anonymous classmate he's fallen in love with online. Love, Simon cost $17 million to produce.
Both Love, Simon and I Can Only Imagine earned coveted A+ CinemaScores, while Tomb Raider earned a mediocre B.
March 16, 1 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
March 17, 8:15 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses and revised weekend estimates.