Early Black Panther: Wakanda Forever box office projections are predicting lower numbers than the first movie. In 2018, Marvel’s Black Panther grossed $700 million at the domestic box office, blowing away expectations and setting records. It became the highest-grossing film directed by a black filmmaker, the highest-grossing film of 2018, and its $1.3 billion worldwide haul placed it as the 9th highest-grossing film of all time. Black Panther even beat Avengers: Infinity War’s $678 million domestic gross while playing at 400 fewer theaters nationwide, although Infinity War grossed more worldwide with a $2.04 billion total. Four years on, Black Panther still sits as the 14th highest-grossing film of all time.
2022 has found the domestic box office still in a post-lockdown slump, although this year has to date brought in $5.6 billion, surpassing the $4.5 billion from this time last year. A major part of the year’s uptick in numbers has been thanks to the continuing success of Top Gun: Maverick, which has crossed $700 million domestically and over $1.4 billion worldwide. But a lack of strong releases this August and September has seen the box office dip below pre-pandemic levels, and this year’s Labor Day was noticeably weaker than 2021’s, when Marvel’s Shang-Chi became the highest-grossing movie to open Labor Day weekend, staying in first place four weekends in a row. This year’s Marvel efforts haven’t been outright disasters, but Thor: Love and Thunder’s $343 million and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness’ $411 million domestic grosses were both considered underperformers.
Now Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s box office is projected to be lower than that of the first film. According to Variety, predictive data provided exclusively from content analytics firm Cinelytic suggests that due to the untimely passing of star Chadwick Boseman (with Marvel film head Kevin Feige declining to recast T’Challa), and due to how 2022’s box office has gone thus far, the sequel is projected to earn just $424 million domestically. This has it surpassing the Doctor Strange sequel’s gross, but is a far cry from Black Panther’s take; $276 million less, to be exact.
Could Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Exceed Box Office Projections?
What the cold calculus of Cinelytic’s numbers can’t wholly take into account, however, is the unpredictability factor of theatergoers. The first Black Panther wasn’t projected to be a hit either, but the film struck a deep chord with audiences, particularly Black audiences, who had never seen themselves represented so fully in a major-budget superhero film before. While superhero films have strived for more diversity in casting overall, Black Panther’s extensive bench of excellent POC characters remains a rarity, and could likely bring audiences back in droves. This includes all audience members curious to see how Wakanda Forever navigates the loss of King T’Challa, those wanting to know who will become the next Black Panther, be it Shuri or otherwise, and those wanting to commemorate the late Boseman. Also to take into consideration, while critically less well-received than their previous films, both Thor: Love and Thunder and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness grossed more than Thor: Ragnarok and Doctor Strange, respectively.
Given the dearth of big ticket films to arrive in theaters in the past two months, audience demand could surpass what Cinelytics projects. Alongside other tentpoles releasing in the final quarter of the year like Halloween Ends, Black Adam, and Avatar: The Way of Water, people could be craving big-screen entertainment, making Black Panther: Wakanda Forever another global smash. Whether it will top Black Panther’s $700 million domestic remains to be seen, but surpassing $424 million seems far more likely.
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