The movie was originally expected to generate $100 million in ticket sales on its debut weekend, but it smashed expectations with $202 million over three days and $242 million over the four-day weekend. That put the film in rarefied territory, placing fifth on the all-time opening weekend box office list, behind reigning champs Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World, and Marvel's The Avengers. Its four-day take nabbed second spot, trailing behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
These results should reinforce Disney's already strong box office this year, on the heels of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which has cleared $1.3 billion and counting in worldwide ticket sales since its Dec. 15 opening.
The movie about the King of Wakanda-turned-superhero continues to defy expectations, earning $112 million in its subsequent frame -- the second best sophomore showing ever, again falling short of only Star Wars: The Force Awakens, another Disney title. It's also only the fourth title in history to earn over $100 million in its second weekend. Black Panther has now broken the $400 million mark in domestic box office and over $700 million worldwide just 10 days after its release -- virtually assuring that the film with cross the $1 billion threshold.
It's important to note that the film has yet to debut in several key international markets, namely China and Japan, and will roar into those markets in the coming weeks.
Black Panther has also outgrossed the lifetime domestic takes of every other Marvel movie save four, and it should top Captain America: Civil War and Iron Man 3 in the coming days -- leaving only Marvel's The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron yet to conquer.
That ain't all
Because Disney is a multimedia company, it's important to remember that a wildly successful movie run isn't the end, but merely the beginning. Characters from blockbuster films are integrated into the rest of Disney's vast empire, starting with its theme parks.
Disney CEO Bob Iger, addressing the annual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference, noted that the young fans waiting to meet and take pictures with the Black Panther walk-around character at Disneyland stood in line for an hour for a chance to meet the superhero. Iger was asked about a ride inspired by the movie. "No, we haven't had a chance to build a ride," he chuckled, "though I'm sure there are people who are working on it."
Another part of the Disney financial magic is consumer products. At the same conference, Iger said, "I pretty much guarantee that this coming Halloween and even Christmas, you know you'll be seeing a lot of Black Panther merchandise."
Disney's cable and television networks are also an important part of the equation. In the months leading up to the movie's debut, the trailer for the yet-to-be-released movie appeared on the Disney-owned ABC television network during the NBA Finals.
The company also promoted rapper Kendrick Lamar, who helmed Black Panther: The Album -- now in its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Lamar performed during the halftime show of the College Football National Championship, which was carried on the ESPN sports network, also a Disney property. The event was used to launch pre-sale tickets for the film -- which went on to produce more advance ticket sales than almost any other movie in history.
A well-oiled machine
Black Panther was released just 10 short days ago, and it has already become a worldwide phenomenon. No doubt Disney is working feverishly to incorporate the Wakandan superhero into all of its operating segments. The character is already appearing at Disneyland, and Iger has alluded to a potential theme-park ride, as well as a plethora of consumer products that will make their debut over the coming year.
We know that Black Panther will also be part of the ensemble cast in Avengers: Infinity War, the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will be released in May.
The Disney marketing machine should not be underestimated. Expect to see much more of Black Panther in the months and years to come.
Danny Vena owns shares of Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2019 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.