‘Black Panther’ sinks ‘Titanic’ with another broken box office record

Image: marvel studios

Mark your calendars, box office nerds: Saturday, April 7 is the day Black Panther became the third-biggest movie in U.S. box office history.

It’s not exactly a surprise. Marvel’s latest toppled Jurassic World earlier in the week to claim the #4 position on the all-time domestic box office charts. That left it roughly $7 million behind the third-place record holder, James Cameron’s Titanic.

We predicted at the time that Black Panther would ascend to #3 in the coming days, and now, here we are. With an estimated $659.2 million in domestic ticket sales after Friday night, the movie would have to spontaneously disappear from all theaters everywhere to finish Saturday without beating Titanic‘s $659.4 million.

This is probably the end of the road for Black Panther‘s domestic box office records. Avatar sits in second-place right now with $760.5 million, and there’s nothing about the current pace of ticket sales to suggest that Black Panther — now in its eighth week of release — has the juice to pull in another $100 million.

This is especially true with Avengers: Infinity War just 20 days away from hitting theaters. Avengers movies have typically been huge at the box office, and Infinity War attempts to rope together events that spread across every previous Marvel Cinematic Universe release to date.

Current, early tracking predicts the next Avengers will open somewhere between $175 million and $200 million. That estimate is actually less than Black Panther‘s $202 million opening weekend — fifth-place on the all-time charts — but it’s likely to rise as the April 27 release gets closer. A new Avengers also means that Black Panther‘s newly set domestic record may not last for long.

None of that matters, though. Box office records fluctuate frequently, as big franchises return each year and inch toward higher earnings in part because of inflation. In many ways, the most impressive detail here is Titanic‘s longevity. It’s been more than two decades since it hit theaters, and it’s still the fourth-highest earner in U.S. box office history.

It’s the same with Black Panther — context matters. In that case, it’s the rare MCU solo effort that landed in theaters as a smash hit. 

There are many factors to pin the success on, including writer/director Ryan Coogler’s exceptional world-building and layered story and a predominantly black cast of bona fide superstars. Black Panther is a game-changing blockbuster for Hollywood that’s done so much more than break a few money records.

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