‘Black Panther’ Outmuscles Jennifer Lawrence, Bruce Willis at Box Office

Marvel superhero flick continues historic run at expense of "Red Sparrow," "Death Wish."

March 4, 2018 2:13 pm

Action icons Bruce Willis and Jennifer Lawrence ran up against an adversary they had no hope of stopping: The Black Panther.

As Marvel’s Black Panther continued its box office dominance in its third weekend, racking up $65.7 million in ticket sales, padding its record February totals to $501 million in North America and $121.9 billion worldwide, it did so at the expense of a pair of high profile newcomers.

Fox’s R-rated spy thriller, Red Sparrow, debuted in a distant second with $17 million — not exactly the numbers that star Jennifer Lawrence could have used after her last movie proved the mother! of all box office disappointments. Despite reuniting with her Hunger Games director Gary Lawrence, the actress didn’t prove the box office draw she was a few years ago.

Red Sparrow
Jennifer Lawrence and Sergei Polunin in Twentieth Century Fox’s ‘Red Sparrow’ (Photo Credit: Murray Close.)
Photo Credit: Murray Close

But the weekend proved even more dismal for action star Bruce Willis, as MGM’s Death Wish died hard and debuted in third place with $13 million. That made the remake of the 70s Charles Bronson flick feel even more dated.

“The competitive landscape this February is much more highly charged than anyone could have imagined when they picked this release date,” ComScore senior box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told RealClearLife.

“Any movie would finish No. 2 to Black Panther. Jennifer Lawrence would probably have had the No. 1 movie if this had been any other February.”

This February, however, has proved to herald a new world order. For many, it’s no longer worth spending $15 a ticket just seeing a generic action movie.

Chadwick Boseman in Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ (MARVEL STUDIOS)

What Wonder Woman proved last year and what Black Panther is proving now is that audiences have been hungry for diversity in their heroes that they sure can’t find in a Bruce Willis movie. The times are changing, and just plugging a star’s name at the top of the marquee is not enough to draw a large audience.

“There are no guarantees in the film industry,” said Dergarabedian. “Formulas that used to work, those formulas may not work as well in today’s world. The model is changing.”

Next weekend, however, Black Panther will face its first real challenge since it opened: A Wrinkle in Time. Director Ava DuVernay actually turned down an offer to direct Black Panther for Disney to helm the film adaptation of the classic children’s fantasy novel for the studio. And she did so because she saw the potential of the film to be a touchstone for girls — particularly for girls of color.

So, diversity will again be the big story in a week’s time.

“We know who’s going to win at the box office next weekend,” said Dergarabedian, “Disney.”

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