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Box Office: 'Black Panther' Heads to Glory With $235 Million Holiday Weekend

LOS ANGELES, Feb 19 (Variety.com) - Disney-Marvel's "Black Panther" is heading for a stunning $235 million debut over the four-day President's Day weekend at 4,020 North American locations, estimates showed Monday.

"Black Panther," starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, has blown away its original tracking in less than a month. The film, which carries an estimated $200 million production cost, had been tracking to bring in between an impressive $100 and $120 million when first estimates emerged on Jan. 25.

Since then, "Black Panther" has become far more than just a popular tentpole title. Instead, it's become a must-see event as it veers into record-setting territory. Thursday previews brought in $25.2 million, the largest Thursday night preview gross for a February opener and the second-largest preview gross for a Marvel film. The film has continued to shatter all projections since then.

On Sunday, Disney estimated that "Black Panther" would take in $218 million for Presidents Day weekend, then revised that number upward on Monday morning by an astounding $17 million. The movie finished Sunday with a $60.1 million -- the second best Sunday in industry history, just slightly behind 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" record of $60.6 million.

With 73% of schools closed, "Black Panther" business should decline 45% from Sunday for a $33 million Monday and $235 million four-day debut.

"Black Panther" has also pushed the 2018 year to date domestic gross up 6.9% to $1.65 billion, according to comScore. It is the highest three-day debut ever for a February film and the fifth highest of all time behind only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at $248 million, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" at $220 million, "Jurassic World" at $208.8 million and "The Avengers" at $207.4 million.

"Black Panther" has demolished the record for the largest President's Day weekend, blowing past "Deadpool's" 2016 mark of $152 million. Overall North American moviegoing for the four-day period should hit an eye-popping $340 million -- far above the $278 million mark in 2016, according to comScore.

Boseman portrays T'Challa, the ruler of Wakanda, a technologically advanced society, who conflicts with Michael B. Jordan's Eric Killmonger, who intends to take over the throne. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Daniel Kaluuya also star.

"Black Panther" should dominate moviegoing for several weeks. Three new films launch next weekend with initial tracking on Feb. 1 showing Warner Bros.' comedy "Game Night" was projecting an opening in the $15 million to $20 million range on Feb. 23-25, while Paramount's sci-fi thriller "Annihilation" debuting in the $12 million to $15 million area during the same weekend.

Sony's second weekend of family comedy "Peter Rabbit" is finishing a distant second with about $23 million at 3,725 sites for an 11-day total of $54 million, followed by Universal's second session of "Fifty Shades Freed" with $19.4 million at 3,768 venues. The finale of the erotic trilogy has taken in $78.6 million domestically so far.

Sony's ninth weekend of its action-comedy "Jumanji: Welcome to Jungle" finished fourth with $10 million at 2,800 venues. The 62-day domestic total has hit $380 million, just behind 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" for 32nd spot on the all-time list. "Jumanji" declined only 21% from the eighth weekend and its ninth weekend is the ninth highest of all time.

Clint Eastwood's thriller "15:17 to Paris" followed in fifth with $9.1 million at 3,042 locations for an 11-day total of nearly $27 million for Warner Bros.

Fox's ninth weekend of "The Greatest Showman" finished sixth with $6.4 million at 1,936 venues to bring its 64-day domestic take to $156 million. Lionsgate's stop-motion animation comedy "Early Man" launched quietly in seventh with $4.2 million at 2,494 sites.

Fox's fourth weekend of "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" slid 58% and took in $3.2 million at 1,892 venues in eighth place for a 25-day total of $54.6 million. Lionsgate-CBS Films' third weekend of Helen Mirren's "Winchester" came in ninth with $2.6 million at 1,479 sites for an 18-day take of $22.2 million.

Fox's ninth weekend of Steven Spielberg's "The Post" rounded out the top 10 with $2.5 million at 1,050 venues for a total of $77.1 million. That was enough to edge Pure Flix's launch of its faith-based Biblical story "Samson" with a modest $2.3 million at 1,249 sites.

Fox Searchlight's 12th weekend of "The Shape of Water" came in 12th place with $2.1 million at 957 locations for an 81-day total of $53.7 million. The Guillermo del Toro fantasy romance scored a leading 13 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 23.