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Black Panther’s massive opening weekend made Marvel history

The film is expected to make $218 million over the Presidents Day holiday.

Carlos Waters and Gina Barton/Vox
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Wakanda forever.

In a record-setting precedent, Marvel’s Black Panther has hauled in one of the largest opening weekends of all time, dominating the US box office earning an estimated $192 million in its debut weekend (Friday through Sunday) and an estimated $218 million for the holiday weekend (including Presidents Day on Monday).

To put that in perspective, Black Panther’s three-day, $192 million opening is the fifth largest in history behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World, and Marvel’s first superhero team-up movie, The Avengers, according to Box Office Mojo.

That means it’s surpassed the opening weekends of nearly all of Marvel’s other superhero flicks, including The Avengers: Age of Ultron, both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and solo vehicles like Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man, and Thor: Ragnarok. As Variety notes, the initial estimates and expectations prior to the film’s release had Black Panther making around $100 to $120 million in its opening weekend — a number that looks positively meager compared to the final figures.

Because Black Panther is the first solo superhero movie to feature a black star and predominantly black cast since Marvel Studios launched its cinematic universe with Iron Man in 2008, there’s been an immense interest in how well it will ultimately perform at the box office. The idea is that box office success for a movie centered on a nonwhite superhero and cast could inspire Marvel to produce and create more movies like Black Panther in the future (the studio’s previous 17 films have all featured white men as the superhero leads).

Conversely, if Black Panther’s opening weekend had turned out to be a flop, it might have fueled the belief held by some Hollywood execs and insiders that black and nonwhite superhero movies aren’t worth the effort — in the past, poorly received female superhero movies like Catwoman and Elektra have been cited as a reason not to create more superhero movies centered on female characters. Wonder Woman’s success at the box office last year was an important step toward changing that mentality, and Black Panther’s could be too.

The next thing to look for with Black Panther will be how it performs at the box office in its second weekend in theaters. Superhero movies usually experience a massive drop in their second week, but a strong showing for the film, as we saw with Wonder Woman, could indicate that the movie could make even more history.

For more on Black Panther and why its enormous success is so consequential, check out the latest episode of Today, Explained.

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