This weekend marks the release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and with it, the kind of anticipation and box office expectations that Hollywood has not seen in months.
In addition to having to follow “Black Panther,” one of the biggest box office hits ever released in 2018, the Marvel movie also faces the task of accomplishing so without star Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020. In case all of that wasn’t enough, Disney, the studio releasing the film, is desperate for a hit.
Early predictions and ticket sales suggest that “Wakanda Forever” will be exactly that. Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett play the mourning princess and queen of the Vibranium-powered African nation of Wakanda in the movie, which is expected to have a record-breaking opening weekend of somewhere between $180 million and $200 million.
Disney’s more modest estimate is roughly $175 million, which would still rank among the year’s strongest debuts. This weekend’s estimated $158 million gross for “Wakanda Forever” would make it the highest November debut ever. And if it brings in $200 million, it will rank among the all-time top-grossing debuts.
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Why cinemas need to see “Wakanda Forever”
“Black Panther” immediately became a global phenomenon once it premiered in theatres in February 2018. Before making $1.3 billion globally and earning multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, the Marvel superhero movie debuted to an astounding $202 million weekend.
According to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore (SCOR), “there is history for this franchise to generate large crowds.” “At this time, every blockbuster matters more than ever for movie theatres.”
What’s in store for Hollywood film ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in India? Click the link below to watch/read my review of the Hindi dubbed version of the ‘Black Panther’ sequel:
📽️🔗👉 https://t.co/v2ipNmCRo3#WakandaForever #BlackPantherWakandaForever pic.twitter.com/ZYnRHRkhcZ
— Komal Nahta (@KomalNahta) November 11, 2022
Why does how “Wakanda Forever” performs this weekend matter? Because there aren’t many fresh, noteworthy movies coming out, the domestic box office has struck a wall following a great performance this summer.
Despite a few recent surprise successes, like Sony’s “The Woman King,” Universal’s “Ticket to Paradise,” and Paramount’s “Smile,” the North American box office is still down 34% from pre-pandemic 2019. There isn’t much time left and there is a lot of ground to make up.
One significant reason why ticket sales are lagging pre-pandemic levels is that widely disseminated film releases are down 38% when compared to the same period in 2019. Given that there aren’t any other obvious gaps on the release calendar shortly, Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told Business that “coming out of this lull period with a major blockbuster like ‘Wakanda’ is excellent news for theatre owners.”
The same reason theatres required “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and “The Batman” earlier this year, “Wakanda Forever” is needed today. It’s unlikely that the box office will make up the shortfall from 2019, but if “Wakanda Forever” ignites the ticket counter this weekend, it might reduce the gap and give the movie tremendous momentum going into 2023.
In addition to boosting ticket sales, movies like “Wakanda Forever” also draw in viewers who may have forgotten what it was like to attend the cinema in the past. That benefits the entire film industry ecosystem, including cinemas, in addition to Marvel’s financial performance.
Why Disney values “Wakanda Forever”
Disney is another option (DIS). 2022 has not been kind to the media juggernaut. Its stock has fallen 42% this year so far, and this past week was especially terrible. Following news that the streaming division lost $1.4 billion last quarter while exceeding forecasts in subscriber growth, the company’s shares fell 13% on Wednesday.
Given that investors are still primarily interested in Disney’s streaming initiatives, the success of “Wakanda Forever” is unlikely to have a significant impact on Disney’s stock. However, a strong performance from the movie might influence the discourse.
A successful opening weekend might also serve as a springboard for Disney’s next month’s potential blockbuster, “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s all-time top-grossing movie debuts on December 16 and, like “Wakanda Forever,” might be a successful follow-up to a popular movie.
Momentum is crucial in this industry, according to Dergarabedian. “Wakanda Forever” is the movie theatres have been waiting for to remind audiences of the wonder and majesty of a great film on the big screen.” That might “light a spark,” in Dergarabedian’s words, “that could fire a chain of moviegoing to carry over to the end of the year and into 2023.”