Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is on the verge of crossing $550 million worldwide after two weekends in theaters, adding $67.3 million domestically and $69.8 million internationally to bring its global total to $546.3 million.
Elsewhere on the charts, Universal’s “She Said” is bombing hard with just a $2.25 million opening from 2,022 theaters, failing to enter the top 5. The $32 million drama about the New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein has suffered one of the worst openings for a film on over 2,000 theaters since the pandemic began.
Let’s start with “Wakanda Forever,” which has taken a 63% drop from its $181 million opening weekend. While that is significantly worse than the exceptional 44% drop that the first “Black Panther” recorded in February 2018, it is better than the 67% drop taken by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” after it opened to $187.4 million this past May. “Multiverse of Madness” had a two-weekend total of $291.9 million domestically and $688 million worldwide, putting “Wakanda Forever” just 1% behind domestically but 21% behind worldwide.
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“Wakanda Forever” should have a stronger third weekend in North America than “Multiverse of Madness” thanks to Thanksgiving weekend, although it is still pacing for a final global total of around $800 million due to the weaker performance overseas. Competition for overseas moviegoers’ attention from the FIFA World Cup and later from the release of “Avatar: The Way of Water” will likely continue to weigh down this film’s holdover performance.
“She Said,” meanwhile, has collapsed theatrically in a way that few other post-shutdown films have. One of the few recent major studio films to bomb this hard was Denzel Washington’s “A Journal for Jordan,” an inspirational film released by Sony on a Christmas Day Saturday in 2,500 theaters and which only grossed $2.5 million in its first three days of release, going on to only gross $6.5 million domestically during the COVID-19 Omicron surge.
“She Said” got the majority of its meager audience from older demographics, with Universal reporting that 61% of the audience was over the age of 35. Those who did see also praised it with an A on CinemaScore to go with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 88% critics and 83% audience.
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But critical praise has not been enough to dramatically boost interest in prestige dramas that tackle difficult topics. Films like Focus Features “Tár” and United Artists’ “Till” have done moderately better in limited and targeted release than their poorly performing counterparts last year, but like “She Said” are still performing well short of what was seen pre-pandemic. Whether it is moviegoers putting more emphasis on escapism or interested audiences simply waiting for these dramas to hit streaming, a significant section of the pre-pandemic box office is slow to return and may never come back.
The independent and specialty films that are performing have been able to attract younger audiences, such as Searchlight’s “The Menu” which opened to a respectable $9 million from 3,211 theaters and is in second place this weekend. Searchlight is reporting strong 18-35 demo turnout in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, with the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn being the top performing theater.
Starring Ralph Fiennes in a horror satire about the world of fine dining, “The Menu” got strong reviews out of TIFF with a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score. But perhaps the biggest boost for the film came from its screening at Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest, where it won the audience award. Like Paramount’s “Smile,” Fantastic Fest has become a key platform for original horror films, exposing new titles to hardcore fans of the genre and helping those films build word-of-mouth that allows them to stand out among younger moviegoers as exciting blockbuster alternatives .
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Also hitting theaters this weekend is Fathom Events’ “The Chosen,” a limited engagement screening of the first two episodes of the crowdfunded Christian streaming show’s upcoming third season. Based on the life and ministry of Jesus and his disciples, “The Chosen” is estimated to earn $8.2 million this weekend.
Chalk “The Chosen” up as another victory for Fathom Events’ faith-based division, which has been drawing evangelical moviegoers to theaters during weekends when they don’t have a major new studio title to screen. Fathom is set to release another faith-based film in early December with “Johnny Cash: Redemption of an American Icon,” a documentary about the famed musician’s turn to Christianity produced by “I Can Only Imagine” directors John and Andrew Erwin through Kingdom Story Company.