Weekend Box Office (March 16 - 18, 2018)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Another crop of new releases could not dethrone Black Panther at the North American box office as the super hero sensation became the first film since Avatar to reign at number one for five weeks. The Marvel smash dropped only 34% to an estimated $27M to lead all films and boosted its domestic cume to a towering $605.4M in the process.

Black Panther became the second fastest film in history to break the $600M mark doing it in just 31 days. Only Star Wars: The Force Awakens did it faster needing twelve days in 2015. Compared to the other biggest comic book movies ever after the same number of days, the T'Challa adventure is running 10% ahead of Avengers, 29% ahead of The Dark Knight, and 42% ahead of Avengers: Age of Ultron. By next weekend, Black Panther should surpass Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Avengers to rank number five on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.

Overseas, Panther suffered a disturbing second weekend crash in China. Though Hollywood movies often fall big there on the sophomore frame, the Wakanda hit tumbled by an enormous 81% from its big debut last weekend. International markets together grossed $30M this weekend lifting the offshore total to a sturdy $577.1M led by China's $96M in ten days. Black Panther has amassed a powerful $1.18 billion worldwide to date and looks on track to finish up at about $1.3 billion which is far greater than any had expected when this year began.

Opening in second place, which is the best any recent film could ask for, was Tomb Raider from Warner Bros. and MGM which debuted to an estimated $23.5M. The PG-13 reboot of the video game franchise averaged a respectable $6,104 from 3,854 locations and carried a production cost reportedly near $100M.

Compared to the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, the new action pic opened 51% smaller and sold about 68% fewer tickets on opening weekend. The older Lara bowed to $47.7M which was the second best opening for a non-sequel during that summer of 2001, and its 2003 sequel opened to $21.8M closing out that chapter for this movie franchise.

Alicia Vikander headlined the new Tomb Raider which earned mixed feelings from film critics. Studio data showed that the crowd was 56% male and 68% over 25. Those that came out were moderately satisfied as evidenced by the B grade from CinemaScore. With Black Panther still energizing the action crowd there was only so much business to be had, and next weekend's Pacific Rim Uprising will provide plenty of direct competition on the sophomore frame.

Tomb Raider attracted much more business overseas which is where the bulk of the grosses will come for this action entry. The reboot did an estimated $84.5M with nearly half of that coming from China's big $41.1M debut which easily beat the American launch. Many Hollywood action movies, especially older properties, open bigger in China than in the U.S. The international cume is $102.5M putting the global gross at $126M with Japan set to open later this week. Getting near the $300M mark by the end of the global run is certainly a possibility as domestic may account for only 20% of the final tally.

Shattering expectations to become the third most popular movie nationwide this weekend was the faith-based hit I Can Only Imagine which debuted to an estimated $17.1M despite playing in the fewest theaters of any movie in the top ten. The PG-rated film averaged a stellar $10,476 from 1,629 locations and posted by far the best per-theater average of any wide release this weekend. Released by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, Imagine played to an audience that was 67% female and 80% over 35. With a glowing A+ grade from CinemaScore plus the Easter holiday coming up soon, this uplifting film is looking at a promising - and profitable - road ahead.

Disney's big-budget fantasy A Wrinkle in Time tumbled 50% in its second weekend to an estimated $16.6M pushing the cume to $61.1M. The drop was in line with what the studio usually sees in March with its fairy tale genre films like Beauty and the Beast (-48%), Cinderella (-49%), and Oz the Great and Powerful (-48%). The final domestic gross is likely to reach about $100M.

Opening well in fifth place was the teen drama Love, Simon which took in an estimated $11.5M from 2,402 locations for a solid $4,788 average. The PG-13 pic earned a great A+ grade from CinemaScore as word of mouth has been very positive which could lead to strong legs in the weeks ahead. Reviews were also positive for Fox which saw an audience that was 58% female, 59% under 25, and 59% white.

The comedy Game Night has quietly become a sleeper hit this season and posted another solid hold in its fourth weekend dipping only 29% to an estimated $5.6M giving Warner Bros. a solid $54.2M to date. Also doing quite well and enjoying fantastic legs was the kidpic Peter Rabbit which eased just 23% to an estimated $5.2M boosting the cume to $102.4M. The Sony hit has now become only the second 2018 film to break $100M domestic. It will soon be followed by Fifty Shades Freed which ranks outside the top ten this weekend but has amassed $99.6M to date.

Strangers: Prey at Night followed falling 54% to an estimated $4.8M giving Aviron $18.6M to date. Jennifer Lawrence was next with Red Sparrow which grossed an estimated $4.5M, down 48%, for a $39.6M cume for Fox. Rounding out the top ten was the Bruce Willis revenge pic Death Wish which collected an estimated $3.4M, off 49%, putting MGM at $30M overall.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $119.1M this weekend which was down 53% from last year when Beauty and the Beast opened at number one with a March record of $174.8M; but up 3% from 2016 when Zootopia held onto the top spot in its third weekend with $37.2M.

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Compared to projections, Tomb Raider opened on target with my $23M forecast while I Can Only Imagine more than doubled my $7M prediction. Love, Simon debuted ahead of my $8M projection.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Pacific Rim Uprising, Sherlock Gnomes, Paul, Apostle of Christ, and Midnight Sun all open.


Last Updated: March 18, 2018 at 1:45PM ET

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