Box Office Guy: Black Panther

Patrick Reardon

Two years ago on this weekend I made the grave mistake of underestimating "Deadpool." I was confident that "Deadpool" was going to big but I only had it opening in the $75m-$80m range for the long weekend. With an FML price tag of FB$811 it seemed a bit steep. This led me to the belief that four screens of "How to Be Single" (cashing in on the Valentines Day crowds) would be able to edge the merc with a mouth. As we all know "Deadpool" ended up shattering even the most ambitious box office forecasts with a jaw dropping $152.2m 4-day opening weekend. Needless to say my fantasy season was essentially over. But I won't be making that mistake again. My lineup is going to revolve around Wakanda.

After a well received test-drive in "Captain America: Civil War" and months of anticipation, Marvel's "Black Panther" is finally touching down in theaters this weekend. It's a guaranteed smash, (hence the reason for the daily FML pricing), but the real question is how big of a blockbuster are we dealing with? When the public is as eager for an event film as they currently are for "Black Panther" box office tracking becomes less reliable.

So I'm going to keep this as simple as I can with the "Deadpool + 10%" strategy. Basically I believe "Black Panther" will post similar numbers to "Deadpool" but with a 10% bump across the board (thanks to the PG-13 rating and slightly higher ticket prices). The opening weekend for "Deadpool" broke down as follows:

Thursday/Friday - $47.3m (31% of the 4-day gross)
Saturday - $42.5m (28% of the 4-day gross)
Sunday - $42.6m (28% of the 4-day gross)
Monday - $19.8m (13% of the 4-day gross)

Notice the slight increase from Saturday to Sunday (quite rare for an opening weekend). I expect the daily breakdown for "Black Panther" to follow a similar trajectory in terms of percentages. Adding 10% to the numbers above would give "Black Panther" the following breakdown:

Thursday/Friday - $52m (31% of the 4-day gross)
Saturday - $46.8m (28% of the 4-day gross)
Sunday - $46.9m (28% of the 4-day gross)
Monday - $21.8m (13% of the 4-day gross)

I don't expect "Black Panther" to hold up quite as well on Sunday since "Deadpool's" opening Sunday landed on Valentine's Day (yes, even non-chick flicks get a bump on the biggest date night of the year). But I don't expect it drop off that much either.

Reviews have been stellar thus far, with the film currently sporting a 98% on rotten tomatoes (despite some silly fringe groups trying to sabotage it) and the film is all over social media (in a good way). "Black Panther" isn't going to be a front-loaded, one-night wonder and I expect it to have a steady run through the four-day weekend (and well beyond). Based on the way the FML pricing gods have broken things down I think Sunday (FB$348) has the most value.

Of the two new wide releases brave enough to open up against T'Challa and company I think "Early Man" from Aardman Animations is the more promising option. But I'd manage these expectations.

Since making a splash in 2000 with "Chicken Run" ($106.8m domestic total) the films from the claymation specialists have been on a downward trajectory. Their most recent release (2015s "Shaun the Sheep Movie") was only able to muster up a $4m opening on its way to a measly domestic total of $19.4m. Perhaps the films are too "British" for young American audiences? Or maybe audiences raised on the computer wizardry of Pixar movies simply don't have an appetite for old-school claymation techniques? Whatever the reason I'm not hopeful for the box office prospects for "Early Man," especially when you factor in the low theater count (2,400) and competition for family audiences in the form of "Peter Rabbit." Even with an "I dare you to screen it" price of FB$49 this film holds little appeal for me.

An even less promising newcomer this week is the biblical epic (I use this term lightly) "Samson" from Pure Flix. The faith-based distributors released three films in 2017, which had an average opening weekend of $2.5m. This seems like the ballpark for "Samson" so even at FB$32 it's not an attractive option.

I realize I often make fun of the output of Pure Flix so I'm going to try to say something nice about "Samson." After all it's Valentine's Day. The thing I like about "Samson" is…..hmmm this is tougher than I expected. The thing I like about "Samson" is….that they gave employment opportunities to Billy Zane, Rutger Hauer and Lindsay Wagner.

For my lineup this week I'm not straying away from Wakanda. I'm banking on a strong Sunday hold and plan to screen it twice. This will also leave me enough room to squeeze in a Monday showing into my Cineplex. This strategy will leave me with a pair of blank screens (normally a practice I'm not a fan of) but I want to cram as much "Black Panther" into my lineup as possible. The missed opportunity of "Deadpool" still haunts my FML dreams…

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):
1. Black Panther - Friday (FB$501)
2. Black Panther - Saturday (FB$451)
3. Black Panther - Sunday (FB$348)
4. Black Panther - Monday (FB$220)
5. Peter Rabbit (FB$186)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "The 15:17 to Paris" (FB$68) It grossed a lackluster $12.6m last weekend. However, it's not losing any theaters this weekend and it has a reasonable price (FB$68). None of the three newcomers provide direct competition to Clint Eastwood's fast-based drama so I can see it sneaking into the bonus hunt (before it disappears from our collective memories next week).

Coming Attractions

Next weekend Natalie Portman enters an unknown realm in writer-director Alex Garland's "Annihilation," while Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman take the time honored couples tradition of "Game Night" to new levels. "Black Panther" will still be running wild but buzz is pretty strong for both newcomers so it will be interesting to see if either (or both) can carve out a box office niche.

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