Why Disney needs "Wakanda Forever"
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is expected to break debut records this weekend when the film hits theaters.
Why it matters: The “Black Panther” sequel is the final Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) release for the year — marking one of the last opportunities left for Disney and movie theaters to make up for a slow summer.
- The 30th title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe MCU is set to make as much as $205 million in the U.S. over three days, surpassing “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” record from 2013, according to Box Office Pro.
Zoom out: But it’s not just a matter of how much the film industry stands to make that reflects the importance of the latest “Black Panther” — it’s also about who the stars and fans are.
- An Axios analysis found that “Black Panther” was a tipping point for the MCU to finally reflect the diversity of its real-world fans.
- It wasn’t until “Black Panther” came along in 2018 — 10 years into the Marvel movies — that the studio had a person of color as a titular character.
State of play: In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” there are four protagonists of color (all Black women) and several Latino actors.
- Both communities were crucial to the theatrical success of the first film and are expected to show up in theaters in strong numbers again.
What they’re saying: "'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' opens this Friday and [director] Ryan Coogler has delivered yet another culture-defining powerful film,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek told analysts this week.
- “The reaction to this film's premier a few weeks ago was incredible and fan anticipation is very high as indicated by the strength of advance ticket sales.”
The big picture: Disney, Comcast and other legacy media giants are spending hundreds of billions building direct-to-consumer streaming services and developing content.
- Big box office successes can support those investments and power Disney's infamous IP flywheel. A Wakanda series for Disney+, for example, is already in the works.
What to watch: "Wakanda Forever" has no major competition this weekend in theaters and “everything comes down to walk-up business and audience reception,” Box Office Pro analyst Shawn Robbins writes.
- This year's other MCU releases, "Thor: Love and Thunder" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" weren't as universally liked and both fell short of the cherished $1 billion mark, Axios' Javier E. David notes.
- And given the huge hole the film has to fill with the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman, reception of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will be critical to the future of the franchise.