'Black Panther' Is on Track for a Record-Setting Weekend Box Office

"Black Panther" actor Chadwick Boseman at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2016 Marvel Panel. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez—Getty Images

The first superhero blockbuster film of 2018 is gearing up for a huge box-office opening this weekend. Black Panther, from Walt Disney and Marvel Studios, is currently on track for the biggest opening ever in the month of February, according to the latest estimate Hollywood tracking service NRG.

The movie, which focuses on the titular superhero who is king of the fictional African country of Wakanda, is forecasted to pull in as much as $165 million in domestic box-office gross for its debut over the four-day President’s Day holiday weekend. Such a showing would hand Black Panther the largest domestic opening ever for a February release, topping the $152 million President’s Day opening for 2016’s Deadpool, the R-rated superhero flick from 21st Century Fox. (Deadpool went on to gross more than $780 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.)

The Hollywood Reporter notes that NRG’s earlier tracking had estimated a $125 million opening for Black Panther as recently as two weeks ago, but the number has been climbing as buzz for the film builds. Earlier this year, online ticket-selling site Fandango said that the movie had already set a record for the best advance ticket sales of any Marvel movie on its first day of online pre-sales, while Black Panther has also been a popular topic on social media, becoming the most tweeted-about film of 2018, so far. The movie is already a hit with critics, earning a stellar 97% rating on the reviews aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

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Directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed) and starring Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up) as the Black Panther, the movie is the first standalone film for the classic Marvel Comics character after Boseman previously appeared as the Black Panther in 2016’s Marvel film, Captain America: Civil War. The title character, whose real name is T’Challa, is a superhero inhabits the same world as Marvel’s Avengers (Iron Man, the Hulk, etc.).

Boseman recently landed on the cover of TIME magazine for an article that called Marvel’s Black Panther “a major milestone” because of how it portrays a superhero of African descent while featuring a nearly all-black cast and an African-American director (Coogler). Much like the success of last year’s Warner Bros. film Wonder Woman helped change the conversation around a female superhero movie helmed by a woman director, a box-office smashing debut for Black Panther could pave the way for a similar paradigm shift in Hollywood with regard to how studios approach big-budget stories about characters of color.

Black Panther officially opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Feb. 16.

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