The Marvel Studios sequel hunted down the biggest November launch of all time at the domestic box office. Elsewhere, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar contender ‘The Fabelmans’ opened to strong numbers in New York and Los Angeles.
The superhero sequel opened to a huge $180 million at the domestic box office to hunt down the biggest November opening of all time and the second-biggest launch of 2022 so far behind fellow Marvel Studios’ pic Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187.4 million). And it easily wrested the weekend crown from DC superhero pic Black Adam, now in its fourth weekend.
Overseas, the Marvel and Disney tentpole debuted to $150 million for a global start of $330 million (that’s as much as DC’s Black Adam earned in its first three weeks). Europe was strong overall, led by the U.K. ($15 million) and followed by France ($13.7 million). Among all markets, Mexico placed third with $12.8 million, followed by South Korea ($8.9 million) and Brazil ($7.1 million). Wakanda Forever also opened scored the highest opening in history In Nigeria, where the film’s African premiere was held.
While Wakanda Forever didn’t match the $202 million domestic debut of Coogler’s Black Panther in 2018, it is still doing formidable business and ranks No. 13 on the all-time list of domestic launches (releases from Disney and Marvel now account for all but one of the 13), according to Comscore. The sequel’s arrival on the marquee couldn’t have been more welcome after a tough fall for theater owners.
Heading into the weekend, Wakanda Forever was tracking to debut in the $175 million range. Until now, the biggest November opening belonged to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158 million).
Black Panther 2, playing in 4,396 theaters domestically, earned $84 million on Friday alone, one of the biggest opening days of all time and all but tying with fellow Marvel Studios title Avengers: Age of Ultron for No. 9 on the list, not adjusted for inflation. Friday’s haul included $28 million in Thursday evening previews. (Friday was Veteran’s Day.)
Coogler’s film received an A CinemaScore from audiences and strong exits on PostTrak. One difference: the first Black Panther earned a coveted A+. It played to an ethnically diverse audience, led by Black moviegoers (34 percent) and followed by Caucasians (31 percent), Latinos (21 percent) and Asian/Other (14 percent), according to PostTrak. It also played more evenly gender-wise than most superhero films, with females making up 45 percent of the audience.
In 2018, Black Panther was the first Hollywood studio tentpole to feature a predominantly Black cast and transformed into a cultural phenomenon on its way to earning more than $1.34 billion at the worldwide box office.
The sequel endured tragedy when Chadwick Boseman, who played the titular role of T’Challa/Black Panther in the 2018 film, died of colon cancer in August 2020. Wakanda Forever’s cast includes Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba and Martin Freeman, as well as Marvel newcomer Tenoch Huerta as Namor and Dominique Thorne as the hero Riri Williams.
Wakanda Forever opened less than 11 percent behind the 2018 film.
“It’s an outstanding result. The first film represented such a major cultural milestone that its performance would have been challenging to follow even under normal circumstances,” says box office analyst Shawn Robbins. “This performance from a sequel almost five years later speaks to the trust audiences have in Ryan Coogler, Marvel and the entire creative team to continue the story in a respectful way after Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing. It’s an opportunity for everyone to say goodbye to him together as the franchise moves forward with his legacy at the heart of it.”
Among superhero movies released in the pandemic era, Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home opened to $260.1 million in December 2021. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness followed in May with $187.4 million, while Thor: Love and Thunder scored $144.2 million in July. In March 2022, DC and Warner Bros.’ The Batman flew to $134 million in its launch. More recently, DC’s Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson in his first live-action superhero role, opened to a more subdued $67 million domestically.
This weekend’s other high-profile opening is Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical tale and Oscar contender The Fabelmans, which is getting a slow platform release, much as a specialty film does, in order to build word of mouth.
The Universal and Amblin Entertainment movie, opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, scored a strong location average of $40,000, one of the best of the year behind Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Banshees of Inisherin. Fabelmans received an A CinemaScore and boasts a 95 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes.
“With The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg has crafted one of his most personal stories yet, an incredible universal coming-of-age story that clearly resonated with audiences this weekend,” said Jim Orr, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Universal Pictures.
Back on the top 10 chart, Black Adam — as expected — took a big hit as Black Panther opened. The Dwayne Johnson pic placed second with $8.6 million for a domestic tally of $151.1 million. Overseas, it cleared the $200 million to finish Sunday with a worldwide total of $352.2 million.
Universal’s romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise continued to hold well, falling only 29 percent to $6.1 million for a domestic cume of $56.5 million and $150 million worldwide.
Sony’s family pic Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile fell just 5 percent to $3.2 million for a muted domestic tally of $40.8 million and $75.6 million worldwide.
Paramount’s blockbuster horror entry Smile rounded out the top five in North America with $2.3 million as it hit $210 million worldwide.
Among Oscar contenders, Banshees placed No. 7 with $1.7 million from 960 locations for a domestic total of $5.6 million.
MGM and UAR’s Till, coming in No. 9, saw its domestic total hit $8 million over the weekend.
Nov. 12, 10:30 a.m. Updated with revised international numbers.
Nov. 13, 8:20 a.m. Updated with Saturday numbers.