‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Takes Box Office Throne With $180 Million Opening

Ryan Coogler’s Marvel sequel has earned a $330 million global launch

Black Panther Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Dorothy Steel as Merchant Tribe Elder, Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Danai Gurira as Okoye in Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has jolted the box office from a months-long slump to one of the best weekends of 2022, earning a domestic launch of $180 million from 4,396 theaters.

Combined with $150 million from 50 countries, Ryan Coogler’s sequel to his 2018 Best Picture Oscar-nominated superhero film has scored a global launch of $330 million. Both domestically and worldwide, only two other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($260 million dom./$601 million WW) and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($187.4 million dom./$452 million WW) have earned higher openings since the pandemic began.

While critics reviews haven’t been quite as strong as the first “Black Panther,” they have generally been positive with an 84% Rotten Tomatoes score, while audience reception is even stronger with scores of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, 83% overall positive on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak and an A on CinemaScore.

With these strong results, “Wakanda Forever” is performing exactly how theaters hoped it would and sets the stage for what should be a strong finish to 2022. Through the rest of November, it will serve as the main moneymaker as other films like Disney’s “Strange World,” Sony’s “Devotion” and Universal’s “The Fabelmans” get released.

What is less certain is whether “Wakanda Forever” will be able to leg out to join “No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” as the third pandemic-era release to gross $1 billion worldwide. So far, it’s off to a solid start. Though the domestic opening is 11% behind the first “Black Panther,” it is 4% ahead in like-for-like markets internationally despite the first film having the advantage of opening up in February during Presidents Day weekend in the U.S. and Lunar New Year in Asia.

Though that Lunar New Year difference led to lower returns in some major markets like South Korea — which is also seeing a slowdown in entertainment spending after the Halloween tragedy in Seoul — Disney reported strong upticks from Friday to Saturday in Europe and Latin America, indicating strong word-of-mouth. Latin America in particular will be a region to observe in the coming weeks considering the film’s inclusion of Mesoamerican culture via the undersea kingdom of Talokan and its leader, Namor, played by newcomer Tenoch Huerta.

However, “Wakanda Forever” will face more challenges internationally with the FIFA World Cup starting next week and “Avatar: The Way of Water” coming to theaters next month, though the latter won’t be a concern for Disney as that sequel is also on their slate.

Domestically, where the first “Black Panther” earned $700 million, it also remains to be seen whether the film’s strong audience reception will lead to repeat viewings from moviegoers, considering that the film’s grappling with the death of lead star Chadwick Boseman gives it a much more mournful tone throughout than most hit blockbusters. Regardless, word-of-mouth should keep holdover totals strong at least until the opening of “Avatar 2” on Dec. 16.

“Wakanda Forever” has pushed overall domestic totals for the weekend to an industry-estimated $210 million, the third highest for a 3-day weekend this year behind only the opening weekends of “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” in the summer. Its No. 1 total is estimated to account for 85% of all theatrical grosses.

In a very distant second is Warner Bros./DC’s “Black Adam,” which saw a 55% weekend drop thanks to the competition from Marvel as it earned $8.6 million in its fourth weekend. The DC film has crossed the $150 million domestic mark but, at this point, is unlikely to reach $400 million worldwide. Though not having a China release is a big factor in that, Dwayne Johnson’s big introduction to the DC Universe is likely to finish in the red due to its reported $195 million budget before marketing.

Universal’s “Ticket to Paradise” is holding on better against the tough competition relative to its budget, taking $6.1 million in its fourth weekend as it reaches the $150 million mark worldwide ($56.5 million domestic) against a $60 million budget. Universal’s strategy for November is to release a series of films aiming for older audiences looking for blockbuster alternatives, releasing “The Fabelmans” in New York and Los Angeles this weekend ahead of a wide Thanksgiving expansion as well as the Harvey Weinstein investigation drama “She Said” next weekend.

Sony’s “Lyle Lyle Crocodile” and Paramount’s “Smile” complete the Top 5 with $3.2 million and $2.3 million respectively. “Lyle” has a domestic total of $40.8 million in its sixth weekend while “Smile” now has a total of $102 million in North America after seven weekends. Last weekend, “Smile” crossed the $200 million mark worldwide and became the highest-grossing horror film of the year, an achievement few expected this original, $17 million film to earn.