‘Wakanda Forever’ to Dominate Box Office Again With $72 Million-Plus as Weinstein Drama ’She Said’ and ‘The Menu’ Eye Slow Starts

Disney’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will steamroll the box office again in its second weekend. The 30th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe aims to add $72 million to $80 million between Friday and Sunday.

Ticket sales anywhere in that range — a decline of roughly 55% to 60% from its stellar $181 million opening — would be a promising result for “Black Panther 2.” Most pandemic-era releases haven’t been able to generate that kind of coinage in its first weekend, much less in subsequent outings.

By comparison, returns for 2018’s “Black Panther” — which opened to a blockbuster $202 million — declined just 44.7% in its second weekend with an exceptional $111 million. More recent MCU entries like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” each fell 67% in their second weekends.

Already, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ranks among the highest-grossing movies of the year with $205 million at the domestic box office and $350 million globally. It’s only the seventh film in 2022 to surpass $200 million in North American ticket sales. With this weekend’s results, Disney’s 2022 releases have collectively grossed $3 billion, the 14th year the studio has achieved the milestone. In 2021, the studio’s movies generated $2.9 billion through the end of the year.

But the follow-up to the cultural phenomenon “Black Panther” was expensive, costing $250 million to produce and at least $100 million to promote. It’ll need to sustain its momentum through Thanksgiving and beyond to justify its price tag and crack the coveted $1 billion mark. During the pandemic, that’s been a tougher threshold to cross since moviegoing hasn’t fully rebounded and China and Russia — two major international film markets — have been out of play due to geo-political tensions. With those obstacles, only three COVID-era movies — “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion” — have generated at least $1 billion globally. The original “Black Panther” dominated during its theatrical run, ending with $700 million in North America and $1.4 billion worldwide.

In the case of “Wakanda Forever,” another obstacle will be its two-hour-and-41-minute runtime, which limits the number of screenings per day. However, it helps that almost nothing is in its wake until James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” touches down in domestic theaters on Dec. 16. Until then, this weekend’s two new nationwide releases — Universal’s Harvey Weinstein investigation drama “She Said” and Searchlight’s dark satire “The Menu” — look to work as counter-programming against Marvel’s mighty heroes.

“She Said,” a depiction of the New York Times journalists who broke the bombshell sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Weinstein and helped to ignite the #MeToo movement, is aiming to generate a bleak $3 million to $5 million from 2,000 North American theaters. But the $32 million-budgeted awards season hopeful has strong reviews and holds a 86% average on Rotten Tomatoes. So, word-of-mouth could work in its favor, especially during the holidays.

Maria Schrader directed “She Said,” which screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz adapted from the best-selling book by reporters Jodi Kantor (played in the movie by Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (played in the movie by Carey Mulligan). Variety’s Owen Gleiberman praised the “tense, compelling” film for tapping into “the pervasive, unfathomable fear that ruled Harvey Weinstein’s victims.”

“The Menu,” starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, should secure the best start among newcomers with a so-so $7 million to $10 million from 3,100 domestic venues. The R-rated film was directed by Mark Mylod of “Succession” fame.

In the well-received movie, Fiennes plays a celebrity chef who prepares a lavish, though maybe a little stomach-churning, menu to a young couple (Taylor-Joy and Hoult) and other guests on vacation. Gleiberman, who also reviewed “The Menu” for Variety, was especially complimentary toward Fiennes and Taylor-Joy: “All the actors are fun, but the two lead actors (sorry, I can’t resist) are so good they’re delicious,” he wrote.

In limited release, director Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal love story “Bones and All” will open in five locations in New York and Los Angeles. MGM plans to expand the film, led by Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell as flesh-eating lovers who embark on a road trip, nationwide on Nov. 23. It carries a $20 million price tag.

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