'Black Panther' is already smashing records with $25.2 million Thursday night box office haul

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” has already entered the record books after a single night in U.S. theaters.

Within the Marvel cinematic universe, only “Avengers: Age of Ultron” earned more in Thursday night previews.

“Black Panther” performed even stronger than expected Friday, bringing the first-day domestic estimate to $ 75.8 million, according to industry sources. That would be the 8th biggest day in Hollywood history. If that trend holds, the movie could pull in a massive $ 200 million U.S. opening over the 4-day Presidents Day weekend, up sharply from a previous estimate of $ 150 million just a week ago.

The movie is the 18th installment in Marvel’s series of interconnected superhero films, but it has injected fresh energy into the franchise.

Directed by African-American filmmaker Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther” is the first Marvel film to feature a predominantly black cast and a story steeped in African culture. It stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the leader and titular protector of the fictional nation Wakanda.

The film is generating tremendous buzz on social media and doing a brisk trade in ticket pre-sales. “Black Panther” is also the best-reviewed film of all the movies released by Disney-owned Marvel, boasting a 97 percent “Fresh” score on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Boxoffice.com is currently forecasting the movie will haul in $ 190 million to $ 215 million over the long weekend. The website projects it will earn $ 178 million over three days.

That would be enough to put it in the upper range of the top 10 highest grossing openings for a superhero movie. At that level, Black Panther would top heavyweights such as Batman, Superman and Spider-Man and take aim at the best-ever debut for a superhero movie focused on a solo character.

Strong reviews, outstanding pre-sales and a holiday weekend release underpin the bullish forecast, but it might be the revolutionary nature of the film that pushes it beyond consensus estimates, said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at boxoffice.com.

“Arguably the most important aspect is the film’s cultural significance as the first tentpole superhero film with an African-American in the lead role,” Robbins said. “Social media activity has been phenomenal to this point and measuring up against the best of the genre’s best in terms of Twitter mentions.”

To be sure, the U.S. box office is just one piece of the puzzle these days. Superhero movies regularly net half to two-thirds of their earnings overseas.

“Black Panther” has earned $ 47 million over three days in foreign markets and is performing well in key markets.

In the U.K., it has earned $ 10.1 million over three days and is outpacing Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Doctor Strange” over the same period. In South Korea, it has taken in $ 9.5 million and posted the second-best Marvel Studios opening to date.

The movie is currently outperforming “Doctor Strange,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” in most of the territories where it has opened.

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