NEW YORK — A wave of feverish anticipation, critical acclaim and groundbreaking cultural meaning pushed "Black Panther" to a record $192 million debut in U.S. and Canadian theaters, firmly establishing the superhero sensation as a box office landmark.
The Marvel film from Walt Disney Co. blew past expectations to become the fifth-highest-grossing debut ever, not adjusting for inflation, following only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "Jurassic World" and "The Avengers."
In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.
Although the film's international footprint doesn't include several of the largest markets — China, Russia and Japan — it still ranks among the top 15 global debuts ever. It's also the highest-grossing February opening weekend.
"All hail the King of Wakanda!" Disney declared, referring to the movie's mythical and highly advanced African nation.
Ryan Coogler's film, which cost about $200 million to make, is the most expensive movie with a largely black ensemble and among the few to be centered on a black superhero. The strong opening suggests "Black Panther" will easily set a box office record for films directed by black filmmakers.
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The previous best is Sidney Poitier's 1980 comedy, "Stir Crazy," which took in $322 million domestically, when inflation is calculated.
"Black Panther" set pre-sale records and saw lines around theaters over the weekend, including some who came costumed for the event.
"This is the very definition of a blockbuster: People lining up around the block to see a great movie," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "A movie like 'Black Panther' is a cultural event that nothing on the small screen can really match in that way."
Chadwick Boseman stars as T'Challa/Black Panther in the first stand-alone film for the superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. The cast also features Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright.
The movie has been hugely acclaimed, with a 97 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, giving it an A-plus CinemaScore. The film especially resonated among African-Americans, who made up 37 percent of moviegoers, according to comScore.
Coming at one of the slower periods of the year, "Black Panther" benefited from little competition, and it can be expected to dominate the marketplace for weeks.
Last week's top film, the erotic romance sequel "Fifty Shades Freed," slid to third place, with $16.9 million, in its second week for Universal. Sony's children's book adaptation "Peter Rabbit" held much stronger, taking the No. 2 spot, with $17.3 million in its second week.
(Universal is a division of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
But moviegoers — and Hollywood — were focused on "Black Panther," including how it would fare overseas. Although it is considered by many to be an outdated myth, some have claimed that foreign audiences have less appetite for films with largely black casts.
"Black Panther" vanquished those notions with $169 million in ticket sales. It was No. 1 in most international markets, although "Fifty Shades Freed" bested it in Germany.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday also are included. Final four-day domestic figures will be released Tuesday.
"Black Panther," $192 million ($169 million international).
"Peter Rabbit," $17.3 million.
"Fifty Shades Freed," $16.9 million ($47.7 million international).
"Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle," $7.9 million ($4.8 million international).
"The 15:17 to Paris," $7.7 million ($2.8 million international).
"The Greatest Showman," $5.1 million ($9.6 million international).
"Early Man," $3.2 million ($3.7 million international).
"Maze Runner: The Death Cure," $2.5 million ($11 million international).