LOS ANGELES: Black Panther remained superheroic in its fourth weekend at the North American box office with US$41.1 million at 3,942 locations, easily topping the opening weekend of fantasy-adventure A Wrinkle in Time with US$33.5 million at 3,980 sites, estimates showed Sunday (Mar 11).
What had been pegged as a close contest among Disney titles for first place turned into a relatively easy victory for Black Panther. The Marvel title generated the third-highest fourth weekend of all time, trailing only Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
With US$562 million in 24 days, Black Panther is now the seventh-highest domestic grosser of all time. It's the first film since Star Wars: The Force Awakens to lead the North American box office for four straight weekends.
A Wrinkle in Time opened in line with Disney's projections, which were slightly lower than the industry consensus. Critics were mostly unimpressed with a 42 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave Wrinkle a B CinemaScore. The US$100 million-plus budgeted film is depending on family audiences to support the film in the coming weeks to push it into profitability.
A total of 37 per cent of audiences gave Wrinkle an "excellent" rating with another 38 per cent rating it "very good," according to comScore/Screen Engine PostTrak. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, noted that the key 13- to 17-year-old demographic gave it an 83 per cent combined score in those two categories. "That is very strong and makes sense with the PG rating, the subject matter and young people's love for the book," he added.
Based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film follows a young girl (Reid), her step-brother (Deric McCabe), and a friend (Levi Miller) as they embark on a journey that spans time and space in search of her missing father.
The weekend marks the first time in recent memory that films both led and directed by African-Americans have nabbed the first and second place spots at the box office. Jordan Peele's Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya, led the box office its opening weekend in February 2017, with US$33.3 million. The wide release of Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, opened at No. 1 in January of the same year with US$22.8 million.
Dave Hollis, president of worldwide distribution for Disney, told Variety that Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time accounted and inclusion through their portrayals of strong female and minority characters.
"Audiences respond to seeing themselves on the big screen and it's good business for us," he added. "Representation and inclusion matter."
Hollis also predicted that A Wrinkle in Time has the next four weekends during spring vacations from schools. He noted that Disney has traditionally opened a family film in early March to take advantage of the family demographic, as it did last year with Beauty and the Beast and in 2016 with Zootopia.
Overall domestic box office was US$137 million, down 17 per cent from the same weekend a year ago when Kong: Skull Island opened with US$61 million. But year-to-date box office is up 7.4 per cent to US$2.31 billion, according to comScore. That gain comes largely from Black Panther and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
The opening of Aviron Pictures' The Strangers: Prey at Night led the rest of the pack in third with US$10.5 million at 2,464 venues. Directed by Johannes Roberts, the horror sequel to 2008's The Strangers stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, and Lewis Pullman.
Fox's second weekend of Jennifer Lawrence's spy thriller Red Sparrow followed in fourth with US$8.2 million at 3,064 sites with a 52 per cent decline. Sparrow has topped US$31 million in its first 10 days.