"Black Panther," Walt Disney Co.'s new superhero franchise, will roar into theaters over the Presidents Day holiday weekend and likely break records.
Black Panther currently is not a marquee Marvel property like Iron Man or The Avengers, but it seems set to become one. Box office predictions from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety track well past Disney's internal forecast of $150 million, with Variety tracking the film between $155 million and $172 million and the Reporter saying it could exceed $165 million. BoxOffice.com, meanwhile, believes its peers are being far too modest, putting a $205 million expectation on the film.
The title is already the fourth-highest preseller of all time in Fandango's 18-year history, behind three Star Wars titles. It is also the largest first-quarter preseller in Fandango's history. Indications point to "Black Panther" easily surpassing the prior Presidents Day domestic opening record of $152 million set by "Deadpool."
Historically, other lesser-known Marvel properties have proven to be big profit engines for Disney. The company, for instance, has successfully elevated "Thor" and "Doctor Strange" to tentpole status, after modest openings of $65.7 million and $85.1 million, respectively. "Ant-Man" also exited theaters with a healthy 35.6% profit margin after a $57.2 million opening. "Black Panther" will have a larger hill to climb, with its $200 million budget, but "Guardians of the Galaxy" managed a 48.0% profit margin against a $172.2 million budget and a $94.3 million opening.
Fueling "Black Panther's" prospects, the film is already tracking ahead of its comparisons at the international box office, according to Deadline Hollywood. Critics are not holding it back either, with the title running a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of noon ET, Feb. 16.
Overall, the box office is down 16.6% year-to-date compared to the same period in 2017, so theater owners, no doubt, are welcoming the new Marvel tentpole.
Two other films will try to fight off the Panther, but with limited success, according to forecasters.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. will deliver "Early Man," a stop-motion comedy from the team that produced "Shaun the Sheep." Forecasters expect it to open in step with that movie, with forecasts from BoxOffice.com, the Reporter and Variety coming in between $5 million and $7 million. "Shaun the Sheep" opened to $4 million but managed to take in $126.6 million by the time it left theaters, leading to net profit of $26.7 million. "Early Man" will also benefit from some critical acclaim, garnering an 83% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of noon ET, Feb. 16.
Lastly, Pure Flix Entertainment will drop faith-based biblical story "Samson," which forecasters expect to open around $3 million to $4 million. A list of faith-based comparisons across a range of opening sales and budgets averaged a net loss of $23.9 million. Rotten Tomatoes was not doing the title any favors, pinning it with a 25% "rotten" score, as of noon ET, Feb. 16.