‘Black Panther’ pounces to box office glory over holiday weekend

BPWASHINGTON: As the US kicked back for a long weekend, Disney’s “Black Panther” got off to a superhero start in the North American box office, rocketing to the top spot with estimated earnings of US$218 million, data showed Sunday.

According to figures from industry tracker Exhibitor Relations, the highly-anticipated 18th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe earned US$192 million over Friday, Saturday and Sunday – exceeding predictions of US$170 million.

Thanks to Presidents’ Day in the US on Monday, “Black Panther’s” estimated earnings were boosted to a stratospheric US$218 million – crushing “Deadpool’s” 2016 Presidents’ Day record of US$152.1 million.

The film, from Disney-owned Marvel Studios, features a star-studded, almost entirely black cast led by Chadwick Boseman as the first non-white superhero to get his own stand-alone movie in the franchise.

Starring alongside Michael B Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o, Boseman plays the titular superhero also known as T’Challa, king and protector of the technologically advanced fictional African nation of Wakanda, an affluent, never-colonised utopia.

In at second was family-friendly “Peter Rabbit,” based on Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s book. Mixing live actors with computer-generated animation, it brought in an estimated US$22.1 million over the holiday weekend for total earnings of US$53.1 million.

James Corden voices the lead bunny which feuds with garden owner Domhnall Gleeson for the affections of sweet-hearted neighbour Rose Byrne.

Dropping to third was last week’s box office champion, Universal’s “Fifty Shades Freed,” with takings of US$19 million, down from US$38.6 million the previous week.

Starring Dakota Johnson as English lit major-turned-publisher Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, her kinky lover-turned-husband, “Freed” is the last of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, which has enjoyed massive popularity among primarily female audiences.

Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” placed fourth in its ninth week in theatres, matching last week’s earnings with US$10 million.

Featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, the family film tells the tale of a group of teens transported inside a video game world.

Director Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17” dropped two places into fifth, taking US$9 million.

The film recounts the story of three young Americans who foiled a terrorist attack on board a train in France in 2015. In an alternative approach that divided critics, Eastwood cast the three men – none of whom had any acting experience – to play themselves.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“The Greatest Showman” (US$6.3 million)

“Early Man” (US$4.2 million)

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” (US$3 million)

“Winchester” (US$2.7 million)

“Samson” (US$2.4 million)