Box Office: “Black Panther” rolls to another big weekend –$100 million, “Annihilation” may hit $10

box1When your comic book movie rolls into a ton of theaters and utterly devours a long 4.5 day holiday weekend, it’s cigars and champagne all around the office.

But when it notches the biggest pre-summer SECOND weekend in modern box office history, what’s the protocol? What do you celebrate with?

“Black Panther” had another big Friday and seems headed towards a $100 million second weekend, with a respectable 50% drop off  from its opening weekend, if Friday’s numbers project into Sat. and Sunday.

There’s a strong “Let’s see it again” pull to this Afro-centric superhero pic, which has to help. Not sure if the numbers are showing a big chunk of the audience isn’t really a comic book superhero crowd, but its alternate history of Africa take on the genre is bracing and worth embracing, especially by people under-represented on the big screen, especially in this genre.

Hollywood seems to have front-loaded tentpole pictures like this to a greater extreme, something “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” emphasized by breaking the mold. It opened well, but lingered and lingered in the top three — six weeks plus — to make its money. Contrast that with “The Last Jedi,” which blew up on its opening and plunged almost 68% its second weekend, and plummeted every weekend afterward. That suggested a lack of repeat business, weaker word of mouth than Disney would admit. It made 2/3 of what “The Force Awakens” earned.

“Panther,” unless Sat and Sunday fall off more than Friday, should escape that “Yeah, and?” thing that has enveloped the “Star Wars” universe (Neither film was that great, and my hunch is that it took fans two movies to figure that out).

“Game Night” has only Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and a comically violent R-rated story to sell it. Good reviews should have helped, but not being an established brand is suppressing turnout. It may not reach the low end of projections ($18), unless word of mouth gives it a big Sat/Sun. push. $16.3 says

“Annihilation” is based on a sci-fi lit trilogy, and that’s not really worth as much as say a Young Adult sci-fi lit trilogy. It was going to be a hard sell. Read the Amazon reviews of the books and you get a lot of “I didn’t really get what it was about, but I couldn’t put it down.”

There’s some of that in the rapturous reviews you read on the aggregating websites. “I loved the look/feel…literally made my skin crawl…scared me” but “I THINK it’s about…”

NPR, which appears to give movie passes to interns, goes on and on about production design. As movies are stories, that’s a dead give-away that you’ve failed. “Valerian” is dazzling to look at, too.

A lot of “I know this is the sort of sci-fi I should be raving about” subtext in those raves, I must say. It didn’t scare me a bit. There’s no urgency to it, a nice sense of dread, but little surprise. It doesn’t really work as horror, even on an existential level. This biological DNA bending entity — if you can call it that — has landed on Earth and started changing the entire ecosystem in its image. People too. You’d think this cast of all-women would be a little more alarmed than they come off. I loved “Ex Machina,” but Alex Garland misses the mark with this bigger budget picture.

Curiosity and good reviews only go so far in obtaining an audience. “Annihilation” is only headed towards a $10 million weekend, and will be gone by mid March. “Arrival,” a far more interesting and cerebral take on First Contact, didn’t blow up the box office either.

The romantic fantasy “Every Day” barely cracked the top ten. Teens don’t want romances, apparently. Under $3 million.

“Early Man” is the unjust flop in the top ten, Clint’s “The 15:17 to Paris” is hanging around, feeding on the older audience.



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