Disney and Marvel Studios' "Black Panther" blew away even the most lofty expectations for its debut weekend, smashing a number of box office records along the way.
"Black Panther" earned just under $242 million in its U.S. opening over the long Presidents Day weekend, the second highest four-day haul in domestic box office history, according to Disney's final tally. Only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" stands taller over a four-day period.
"Black Panther" did top the "The Force Awakens" in one respect: the superhero film edged out the blockbuster space opera — $40.67 million versus $40.11 million — for the the best Monday ticket sales of all time, Disney reports.
The final four-day figure from the House of Mouse comes after a series of stunning revisions. On Sunday, Disney had projected "Black Panther" would earn $218 million over the holiday weekend. And just a week ago, the movie was tracking for a $150 million open.
The first solo movie featuring Marvel's African avenger has earned an estimated $201.8 million during the industry-standard Friday-through-Sunday window, according to the latest estimate from comScore. That's enough to best comic book heavyweights including Iron Man, Batman, and Superman.
Directed by African-American filmmaker Ryan Coogler, "Black Panther" is the first Marvel film to feature a predominantly black cast and a story steeped in African culture. It stars Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, the leader and protector of the fictional nation Wakanda.
"'Black Panther' paves the way for a new narrative with the breaking down of barriers and outdated notions of what a commercially viable, mass appeal superhero film can look like," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
"The film's message becomes even more powerful because it's delivered within a hugely entertaining movie-going experience that will continue to resonate for weeks to come as the social media conversation builds and the box office dollars keep rolling in."
King T'Challa's rein began on Thursday night, when it set a record for the best preview night in February with $25.2 million in ticket sales. It is also the undisputed champion of Presidents Day, topping the $152.2 million record set in 2016 by Twentieth Century Fox's R-rated comic book flick "Deadpool."
Within the Marvel cinematic universe, only "Marvel's Avengers" posted a better North American debut.
The movie is the 18th installment in Marvel's series of interconnected superhero films, but it has injected fresh energy into the franchise.
"Black Panther" has generated tremendous buzz on social media and did a brisk trade in ticket pre-sales. "Black Panther" is also the best-reviewed film of all the movies released by Disney-owned Marvel, boasting a 97 percent "Fresh"score on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
"This film represents the winds of change. Hollywood has left money on the table for decades with a shortage of event-level films appealing to more diverse crowds," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at boxoffice.com. "This is the kind of shift audiences have waited a long time for."
Boxoffice.com forecast ahead of the opening that "Black Panther" would haul in $178 million over three days, and $205 million over the long weekend — one off the more bullish projections at the time.
To be sure, the U.S. box office is just one piece of the puzzle these days. Superhero movies regularly net half to two-thirds of their earnings overseas.
"Black Panther" has now earned $426.6 million around the world, and was performing well in key markets, according to industry tracking data. The movie has yet to open in key locations including China, Japan and Russia.