By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES, (Variety.com) - "Black Panther" remained superheroic in its fourth weekend at the North American box office with $41.1 million at 3,942 locations, easily topping the opening weekend of fantasy-adventure "A Wrinkle in Time" with $33.5 million at 3,980 sites, estimates showed Sunday.
What had been pegged as a close contest among Disney titles for first place turned into a relatively easy victory for "Black Panther." The Marvel title declined only 38 percent and generated the third-highest fourth weekend of all time, trailing only "Avatar" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
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With $562 million in 24 days, "Black Panther" is now the seventh-highest domestic grosser of all time. It's the first film since "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to lead the North American box office for four straight weekends and it's grossed $1.08 billion worldwide, 21st highest of all time.
"A Wrinkle in Time" opened in line with Disney's projections, which were slightly lower than the industry consensus. Critics were mostly unimpressed with a 42 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave "Wrinkle" a B CinemaScore. The $100 million-plus budgeted film is depending on family audiences to support the film in the coming weeks to push it into profitability.
A total of 37 percent of audiences gave "Wrinkle" an "excellent" rating with another 38 percent rating it "very good," according to comScore/Screen Engine PostTrak. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, noted that the key 13-17 year-old demographic gave it an 83 percent combined score in those two categories. "That is very strong and makes sense with the PG rating, the subject matter and young people's love for the book," he added.
Based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic fantasy novel, "A Wrinkle in Time" stars Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The film follows a young girl (Reid), her step-brother (Deric McCabe), and a friend (Levi Miller) as they embark on a journey that spans time and space in search of her missing father.
The weekend marks the first time in recent memory that films both led and directed by African-Americans have nabbed the first and second place spots at the box office. Jordan Peele's "Get Out," starring Daniel Kaluuya, led the box office its opening weekend in February 2017, with $33.3 million. The wide release of "Hidden Figures," starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, opened at no. 1 in January of the same year with $22.8 million.
Dave Hollis, president of worldwide distribution for Disney, told Variety that "Black Panther" and "A Wrinkle in Time" accounted for inclusion through their portrayals of strong female and minority characters.
"Audiences respond to seeing themselves on the big screen and it's good business for us," he added. "Representation and inclusion matter."
Hollis also predicted that "A Wrinkle in Time" has the next four weekends during spring vacations from schools. He noted that Disney has traditionally opened a family film in early March to take advantage of the family demographic, as it did last year with "Beauty and the Beast" and in 2016 with "Zootopia."
Overall domestic box office was $137 million, down 17 percent from the same weekend a year ago when "Kong: Skull Island" opened with $61 million. But year-to-date box office is up 7.4 percent to $2.31 billion, according to comScore. That gain comes largely from "Black Panther" and "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle."
The opening of Aviron Pictures' "The Strangers: Prey at Night" led the rest of the pack in third with $10.5 million at 2,464 venues. Directed by Johannes Roberts, the horror sequel to 2008's "The Strangers" stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, and Lewis Pullman.
Fox's second weekend of Jennifer Lawrence's spy thriller "Red Sparrow" followed in fourth with $8.2 million at 3,064 sites with a 52 percent decline. "Sparrow" has topped $31 million in its first 10 days.
Warner Bros.' third weekend of R-rated comedy "Game Night" finished fifth with $7.9 million at 3,061 locations, declining only 24 percent to lift its 17-day total to $45 million. Sony's fifth weekend of "Peter Rabbit" came in sixth with $6.8 million at 3,112 venues to push the family comedy past $93 million domestically. MGM's second weekend of "Death Wish" followed in seventh with $6.6 million at 2,882 sites to give the Bruce Willis reboot nearly $24 million in 10 days.
Entertainment Studios' action-thriller "The Hurricane Heist" opened softly with $3.2 million at 2,402 locations, and tied for eighth place with Paramount's third weekend of sci-fi horror movie "Annihilation" at 1,709 screens.
Sony's 12th weekend of "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" rounded out the top 10 with $2.8 million at 2,157 sites. Its 82-day total has hit a remarkable $397.3 million, good enough for the 30th spot on the all-time domestic list.
Nash Edgerton's "Gringo" grossed a pallid $2.6 million at 2,402 locations to finish 11th. The Amazon Studios and STXfilms' action comedy stars David Oyelowo as a business man who works for a company that had developed the "weed pill" and is sent to Mexico to handle the manufacturing of the product, but ends up getting kidnapped by a drug cartel. The cast also includes Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, and Thandie Newton.
Fox Searchlight's 15th weekend of "The Shape of Water" followed in 12th with $2.4 million at 1,552 venues, up 63 percent as the studio added 720 screens of Guillermo del Toro's fantasy drama, which won best picture and best director at the Academy Awards. "Shape" has grossed $61 million in 101 days.
Focus Features' thriller "Thoroughbreds" opened with a quiet $1.2 million on 549 screens. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke portray childhood friends who reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Cory Finley makes his directing debut with the film that features Anton Yelchin in his final on-screen role. The actor died at age 26 in a freak accident in 2016.
Fox showed sneak previews of its gay romance "Love, Simon" on Saturday night ahead of its opening next weekend in about 2,400 locations. Warner Bros. is also launching action-adventure "Tomb Raider," starring Alicia Vikander, in around 3,600 locations. Both face formidable competition from the fifth weekend of "Black Panther," which could contend again for first place.