‘Black Panther’s’ strong weekend box office makes it biggest-ever February release

Black Panther,” Marvel’s 18th film in its universe of superhero films, delivered a top five all-time opening this weekend.

Walt Disney Co. DIS, +1.28%  said Sunday that it estimates the film earned $192 million over the course of its three-day Friday to Sunday opening weekend. That makes “Black Panther” the highest-ever February release, beating out 2016’s “Deadpool,” and places it in fifth place after Marvel’s “The Avengers,” “Jurassic World,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

For the four-day weekend including the Presidents Day holiday, “Black Panther” is expected to rake in $218 million in the U.S. alone. Including receipts from around the world, the film’s four-day debut box office jumps to $387 million.

The film, which has a 98% aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has been heralded as an important cultural moment for its director, Ryan Coogler, and Marvel Studios.

Coogler is the first African-American director to helm a Marvel film in the decade that the studio has been releasing films as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Black Panther” follows T’Challa, the protector as Black Panther and new king of the fictional, isolationist African nation Wakanda, as he struggles to contend with outside forces.

Coming after the #OscarsSoWhite controversies in 2015 and 2016, “Black Panther” and its predominantly black cast, offer a poignant story of the African-American experience and a celebration of African culture.

Don’t miss: Why ‘Black Panther’ is the most important blockbuster in years

Disney threw a reported $200 million production budget behind the film, a significant support for black filmmakers telling a story through a black lens.

“Black Panther’s” huge opening weekend is expected to encourage Hollywood to invest money and resources in stories from filmmakers of color.

“In success, Hollywood immediately gets interested in making more of these movies and projects that will target and hopefully attract a wide audience,” entertainment lawyer Darrell Miller told MarketWatch.

“In failure, Hollywood often says ‘I told you so’ and pulls back from spending significant production and marketing dollars on high budget, tentpole films that focus on people of color. This is unfortunate because the same standard is not applied to mainstream films.”

Disney shares have fallen about 3% in the last 12 months, while the Dow Jones Industrial DJIA, +0.08%  has gained 22% and the S&P 500 SPX, +0.04%  has gained 16%.

Read now: Wakanda forever: The overt feminism of ‘Black Panther’

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