(Bloomberg) — Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the latest superhero picture from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel unit, topped the weekend box office in the US and Canada with $180 million in ticket sales.
The studio expected the film to generate $175 million domestically in its debut, while Boxoffice Pro estimated it would take in anywhere from $170 million to $205 million. Globally the film took in $330 million, Disney said in a statement Sunday.
The first Black Panther film in 2018 was a watershed moment for Disney and the industry as the first big-budget superhero movie to feature a largely Black cast. The picture went on to gross almost $1.4 billion worldwide, dispelling myths that action movies starring people of color wouldn’t perform well abroad.
Tragedy struck with the 2020 death of the first film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, however. The creative team behind the sequel had to pivot. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler recast the story as one that incorporates the hero’s death and sets up a new team of Black female stars to fight the bad guys and presumably produce more sequels and spinoffs.
The new film had a strong 85% approval rating from critics going into the weekend, according to review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com. It likely benefited from opening over the long Veterans Day holiday weekend, and by seeing little competition from other new releases. It was the second-highest grossing film opening this year, after Disney’s Doctor Strange, which took in $187.4 million in May.
Wakanda Forever’s release comes at a tumultuous time for media stocks. Disney suffered its worst one-day rout in 21 years on Nov. 9 after it said losses in its direct-to-consumer arm, driven by the Disney+ streaming service, more than doubled to $1.47 billion in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter.
The picture’s solid performance is also a much needed tailwind for theater chains, some of which have entered or are nearing bankruptcy amid competition from streaming insurgents and a dearth of blockbuster releases this year.