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Black Panther: The Math, Objectively – Part 2, Opening Weekend

Okay… huge number.

Tracking was low. Not a shock. When you get past $100 million, tracking is mostly a crap shoot.

As it turned out, Disney did itself a great service by letting the film stew in its strong media reaction for what seemed like a week too long in a very soft early 2018 movie market. This is the first legit blockbuster coming into the market since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. And what was always expected to open around $100 million then took off as a major cultural event.

People were inspired to see this film, not wanting to be left out of the conversation over the weekend at at the office or at school on Tuesday.

$235 million 4-day.

What does that mean in basic box office math?

I think $100 million or so. 10 million or so people going to Black Panther that would not have been expected to go to any character-launching comic book movie, even a well-reviewed one.

And if I had to guess – and I do – I would guess that the expected black American audience of about $47 million for a $235 million opening was more like $90 million here.

Looking earlier at the BP math, I would assume that half of that number represents about 85% of all domestic black frequent moviegoers and half of that number is likely made up of occasional and infrequent domestic black moviegoers. An extremely strong turnout in both categories.

But those numbers still would leave Black Panther as a massive out-sized opening amongst non-blacks (whites, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians), pulling in $145 million or so, about $25 million more in non-black audiences compared to an opening like Deadpool or Suicide Squad. That’s 17% above in non-black ticket sales vs the huge openings mentioned.

There will be someone out here who thinks I am undercutting this opening. But I am not. Not at all.

Eliminate the black box office bump and you are still looking at a Top 12 all-time opening. Everything that anyone suggests regarding culture shift is just as true (or just as untrue, if you don’t subscribe to the notion) with $45 million less than the actual 4-day number. The idea that the specific number was critical stopped being an issue around a $150 million domestic launch.

Internationally, still unknown. What we do know is that the $169m opening weekend from about 70% of the international market will likely lead to no less than $550 million internationally. And we know that this could as much as double to $1.1 billion internationally. There is no way of knowing for another week or two.

Still, it seems impossible for Black Panther to come up short of $1.1 billion worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. $600 million domestic and $500 million international seems like the bottom. $1.3 billion and a spot in the all-time Top 10 Worldwide (until the next Avengers movie and Jurassic World 2, at least) would not be shocking at this point.

The argument floating out there that these sensational numbers will change how “Hollywood” and particularly the international theatrical market see “black movies” is a more troubling conversation. A look at the list of billion-dollar worldwide movies quickly make clear that these massive commercial events do not change the market very much. You could make the argument that Marvel’s overall success has prompted more efforts to make comic book films, but I don’t think that is any real cultural shift. The evolution of the technology and Marvel’s successful navigation of storytelling seems more the story. We don’t see the influence of the Cameron films or the Rings films or Pirates or Transformers or even the physical slapstick of the Minions reflected in what has  been produced since. There has been some Twilight imitation and maybe it begat The Hunger Games, but the failure of the genre beyond those two series proves the point, perhaps.

Under 30s are a lot less racially discriminating than their parents everywhere in the world and that the bias was even greater at the international box office than here in the U.S. Fear of The Other in America is excessive and paranoid. While still dead wrong, the sense of threat is more real in much of the rest of the world. Some will tell you that this is a myth perpetuated by a small cabal of film buyers clinging desperately to their racist ways. I do not believe this is so.

Seventeen of Will Smith’s twenty-three films have done more than 50% of their business overseas. And the few that haven’t usually contained very American content.

Denzel had a consistent run of 50%+ overseas from 2006 – 2010… but hasn’t seen the better side of 50% since 2011, whether in dramas or action movies, with name co-stars or not. His best performance ever overseas was 65% with Déjà Vu, which had no major white co-star.

Eddie Murphy cracked 50% overseas with just 7 of 23 of his live-action films.

Dwayne Johnson is over 58% overseas in the last decade with everything except his straight comedies. (Baywatch, however, did 67% of its revenue overseas.)

I don’t believe there is a “we won’t see movies with black people” blockade overseas. Comedies have a hard time overseas, period. Big action movies play everywhere, regardless of race… and in many cases, better because of casts that are international and racially inclusive.

And dramas are complicated. They are complicated for all American movies that don’t have big movie stars… and for many that do.

12 Years A Slave did more than double its successful American gross overseas. 70% of total box office. Look at the cast of the film of all colors and nationalities and how their dramas did overseas, since and before, and you see a lot of films that didn’t do a whole lot of business in America or overseas, the exceptions being the few dramas set internationally. (This is particularly a Brad Pitt thing… and you wonder how consciously he makes the choice to set his dramas outside of America.)

This is what I do think Black Panther will change. Michael B. Jordan will be, if he so chooses, an action star who does business worldwide. Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright will get opportunities they may not have otherwise gotten in colorblind casting and will be able to fund indies on their names. Danai Gurira will be a curiosity who directors will want to figure out and may or may not find a career as an action star who is also female… and black. Winston Duke and his big smile, deep voice and 6′ 5″ frame will work every day he wants to work for decades and may turn out to be the multi-faceted actor that Forest Whittaker has been or perhaps “just” the next Bill Duke (who I love to watch) or maybe he is John Lithgow waiting to happen… who knows? This is a terrific cast and they now have box office cred and the world will be their oysters for a few years and they will do what they do.

I would hate to see Ryan Coogler sucked into another franchise. He has the wherewithal to get something about which he is passionate made now and he can be comfortable that if he loses every dime the film costs, he can do Black Panther 2 and get a $10m+ payday. So he is set for a while. I want to see his next hard-to-get funded passion project made by Fox 2000 as they segue into Disney.

Much of the team under Coogler are established veterans. Hannah Beachler is fascinating and quirky and she may have the biggest upside caused by this film as she has the least feature experience. Others, like Rachel Morrison and Ruth Carter are already well-known crushers.

This is how I see change in the film business. Seed the field. Success breeds opportunity. The more seeds, the more success, the more colorblind (and gender-blind) the industry appears to become.

The future that is really interesting is someone like Lisa C. Satriano, Black Panther‘s first AD. Does she want to direct? She’s done a lot of big movies as a first.

Claudia Castello co-edited Coogler’s first two films and did some work on Black Panther… and cut two more films coming out this year. Will she become one of the hot name among editors with these credits?

Seed the field.

Black Panther was always likely to be a winner. It wasn’t expected to be this big. But the fact that it is a winner, combined with the high quality of the work by Ryan Coogler and the people he hired is what will put another brick in the wall of change. $1.3 billion or $600 million? It’s great to go big. But James Wan hasn’t caused Hollywood to start recruiting for mega-movie directors in Malaysia. It just doesn’t work that way. Things are changed by the people in the fight, not by the details of the gross.

The success of Black Panther makes things better for those who were already well placed in the industry and makes room for people who are still getting started, even if they already had a foothold. No distributor in Europe is going to book a $20 million drama starring and made by people of color because of Black Panther. But they may be more inclined to book the Lupita Nyong’o drama or the Danai Gurira sexy actioner directed by Steven Soderbergh or Ryan Coogler’s next film that is more like Fruitvale Station than like Creed. Those are 3 wins. And if even just 1 of those 3 hits, that is another win, squared.

And that is how the movie world changes.

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Weekend Estimates From Down Wakanda Way

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BYOSpoilers – BLACK PANTHER

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Friday Box Office Estimates

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BYO Wakanda (Hold Those Spoilers, Even Tiny Ones)

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..Okoye (Danai Gurira)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

Can we start without spoilers? End of the weekend, after more people have had a chance to see the film, there will be a place to freely spoiler!

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Weekend Estimates by Finally Closed Shades Klady

Weekend Estimates 2018-02-11 at 9.18.42 AM

The final 50 Shades movie looks like the first that will fail to gross $100 million domestic. Still, $250 million worldwide seems likely, so Universal can still make a bundle and the Chinese can get their money out. Peter Rabbit delivers an Emoji Movie opening, sans Poop. And The 15:17 to Paris chugs out of the station slowly. Jumanji and Greatest Showman continue to hold, their 2018 numbers outgrossing any 2018 release to date.

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Friday Estimates

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Jóhann Jóhannsson Was 48

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Black Panther: The Math, Objectively

Here is where we are heading on Black Panther.

Tracking indicates, roughly, a $150 million opening.

Huge number. 10% bigger than Deadpool. About 15% less than Beauty & The Beast.

But I am interested in the long term: people are focused on this as a breakthrough for black cinema. But I think it is a normal comic book movie with a not-the-norm visual look and style that can be seen in the ads… plus the extra commercial kick of a unique appeal to black moviegoers. That is, in theory, where the big opportunity is.

The comp would be Wonder Woman, which behaved like most good comic book movies, plus – I estimate – 20% to 25% added domestic gross from women who would normally not go to a comic book movie. There may have been some kick overseas as well, but in the rest of the world, the film was the lowest-grossing of the four DC films in 2016/2017.

The interesting element on Black Panther is that the potential group of ticket buyers who are African American who don’t normally go to comic book movies is smaller than the potential group of female American ticket buyers.

There are roughly 5.5 million African American frequent moviegoers (12 or more movies a year).

There are roughly 21 million African American occasional moviegoers (between 2 and 11 movies a year).

If Black Panther draws, say, 25% more black occasional moviegoers than the approximate 5% of normal attendance in that group and all the frequents, that’s about 10.5 million black ticket buyers domestically… or about $120 million (roughing in IMAX, 3D, a lean to evening and weekend shows, and heavy viewing in cities) coming from black ticket buyers, over perhaps $75 million otherwise.

Then add to that, African Americans who rarely, if ever, go to the movies, the same way conservative whites came out for Passion of the Christ or American Sniper. 35 million opportunities. Find just 5% and that’s another $20 million. Of course, with something like The Passion, that opportunity was nine times bigger… reaching white and brown audiences, as well as religious black audiences.

Regardless of opening, that Black Panther will be end up past Deadpool domestically… and probably just short of Wonder Woman, although $400 million is a real possibility. And I think $75 million – $100 million of that will be African Americans inspired to see a film led by African Americans in front of, and behind the camera.

The reality overseas is going to be the reality overseas. It will not likely be the same smash internationally. Anything over $400 million will be a win. Anything over $350 million will not be a disappointment. And if it’s over $450 million, it will be a breakthrough, important commercial moment for international box office for a movie driven almost exclusively by black faces.

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BYOB: Super Bowl

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Weekend Estimates by Wardrobe Malfunction

Wknd Est 2018-02-04 at 11.35.37 AM

Aside from single-screen releases of Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Soiren and Kiarostami’s final film 24 Frames, A Fantastic Woman is the only opening over $4,100 per screen this weekend.

Seven of the nine Best Picture nominees are still in theaters (limited releases of Get Out and Dunkirk lasted only a week),

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 11.50.01 AM

The Shape of Water chugged past Three Billboards and Lady Bird, but is in no immediate danger of cracking the Top 3 of the nine (#1 Dunkirk, #2 Get Out, #3 The Post), which would put it in the danger zone, where no film has won Best Picture since the expansion from 5 BP nominees. Box office film #4 of the BP nominees has won the big award twice in eight years… 25%. Could leap to 33.3% this year.

Only The Post and The Shape of Water are on over 1,500 screens.

Darkest Hour had a small expansion, and it and Shape should be over $50 million by the end of next weekend.

I, Tonya is a big hit for Neon, getting a film to the high end of A24 business in just its first year, when it took A24 three years. (A24, of course, is cracking their ceiling with Lady Bird, which could do close to double what the distributor’s previous top title did.)

Hostiles also is over $20 million for Entertainment Studios, though this isn’t close to the new distributor’s one hit so far, 47 Meters Down.

International worked magic for Ferdinand, which didn’t quite land here for Fox, but is nearing $300m worldwide, running just behind The Greatest Showman.

Jumanji will pass $900 million in a couple weeks, making it Top 5 for 2017, but coming short of the next level at $1 billion. Notably, that will leave only one comic book movie in the Top 5. (Star Wars, Beauty, F&F, Despicable 3.)

Enjoy the Super Bowl. I was born in Philly and am a Dolphins fan, so I should hate The Pats. But I don’t. They have earned their success, even if they cheat sometimes. I’d like an Eagles win, but I won’t be comfortable with the idea, even if they have a big lead, until the clock is under a minute or Tom Brady gets crushed in a horrible wardrobe malfunction and Timberlake has to play for him. And if the Pats win another, God bless ’em… it’s been an amazing run… and even if they keep it together for another couple years, the agony of being in their division is almost over. Hope it’s a great game!

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Friday Estimates by Super Bored Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-02-03 at 10.52.21 AM

This is the Friday the studios worked so hard to have.

The studio business starts again next weekend after a month off, essentially.

So here is the question… does Disney have responsibility to balance out the year for the film industry?

Black Panther would have opened nearly as well two weekends ago and perhaps played even better in the long run, with almost nothing in the marketplace to contend with for a couple weeks. Why is Disney waiting until February 16?

Ironically, Black Panther is already an aggressive move for Disney as is. March has been the month of non-summer/non-holiday triumphs for Disney in recent years, with Beauty & The Beast and Zootopia. They took BP halfway into February.

And I have to tell you, at risk of social media abuse, that Disney is using Black Panther to try to slingshot the launch of A Wrinkle in Time, which is in a category in which Disney has flailed in recent years, and which is not expected to be as well received critically as Black Panther. Disney looks for at least a six week window between movies that the studio sees as having blockbuster potential. Wrinkle is opening three weekends after Panther. And they only have opening weekend before the new, girl-powered Tomb Raider. Don’t assume I am pre-judging the movie. I’m just telling you what the factual tea leaves of history tell us about how Disney must see the film. (August has gone from a wasteland last summer to overripe this summer, with at least eight studio/”big” releases.)

Searchlight appears to have decided they want The Shape of Water to win Best Picture over Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have expanded Shape more aggressively and probably don’t want to deal with the PC squad that keeps slapping at Three Billboards for what it isn’t. Either way, a great season for the distributor.

Sony Classics’ A Fantastic Woman will be over the $10k per-screen mark, presumably less slowed by Super Bowl tomorrow. Could come up just short. Nothing else will come close.

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Masterclassing With Paul Schrader In Rotterdam (86m)

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The Hot Blog

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“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948

“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson