Why Black Panther’s box office success may hurt Avengers: Infinity War

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Black Panther is an undisputed hit, with over 67 million tickets sold and $1.2 billion in worldwide revenue. Almost no one saw this film coming, everyone expected the film to be big, but to be the highest grossing domestic superhero film ever, especially over The Avengers, and outgrossing the worldwide total of Star Wars: The Last Jedi was never on anybody’s radar. Now there are many reasons for the film’s success, it being a cultural milestone and having no other movie competition for almost its entire run all contributed to the film being a smash hit.

This does raise an issue though, the film is currently in its 6th week of release and is expected to pull in north of 16 million at the box office Avengers: Infinity War is swiftly approaching theaters and is currently only 4 weeks away from smashing records. Infinity War is currently projected to earn around $215 million opening weekend and 538 million total So the question that arises is will Black Panther’s huge success hurt the box office of Infinity War.

On the surface, this seems like a silly question, however, this is the first time that two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be released so close to one another. As stated before Disney did not expect Black Panther to be still earning double digits in its sixth weekend, and it is likely that the film will still be in theaters earning money when Infinity War arrives.  This would normally not matter, however, the titanic popularity of the film presents a set of unique problems.

Superhero films often rely on hype to push the films box office, this often comes from an extended period of not having a film in the series. When Superhero films are all crammed into a short period of time it can cause films to cannibalize each other. Not only does Infinity War have to contend with the leftover Black Panther but also Deadpool 2 and Solo. Sadly someone is going down.

It might be laughable to say Black Panther will hurt Infinity War, but let’s look at the numbers, superhero films rely on multiple viewing of the film to have big box office numbers, Black Panther only got to its high numbers with people seeing it many times. I had one friend recently said that he was going to see Black Pantheragain next week, and this was his 4th or 5th time seeing it. This is a story that has been occurring all over the nation that has pushed Black Panther to such high box office grosses.

Without a doubt, Infinity War will open huge, however, there is a major possibility that people who went and saw Black Panther 2-6 times in the theater will not return to see Infinity War as many times due to burn out and because they may have seen the previous film with friends many times. A recent example of this is Thor: Ragnarok and then Justice League. The failing of Justice League has been linked to the film itself, however, there is increasing evidence that that was not the core reason for the films sputtering at the box office, but was in fact due to oversaturation of the genre at the box office.

Justice League was released on DVD/Blu-ray this week and was a smash hit selling three times as many copies as Thor did. Many people were asking if so many people rushed out to buy the film, where were they when it was released in theaters? Well, Justice League was released soon after Thor and many people were burned out and had spent a lot of money rewatching Thor and thus either skipped Justice League or only saw it once.

Also generally Avengers style films tend to have a lower total multiplier than other MCU films. With both Age of Ultron and Civil War finishing with multipliers in the mid 2.2-2.5’s.

While Black Panther was hugely popular it has burned off a lot of demand for a new superhero film. It is also very expensive for families to go to the movies, with a trip to the show costing upwards of $100 dollars for a family of four. If a family just spent $100-175 to see Black Panther multiple times they may decide to only see Infinity Waronce, due to the cost. There is also to be said about MCU burnout, we all love the MCU, but the films are very similar in tone, light, funny and action-packed but relatively shallow films.

This is not a criticism of Marvel because we all enjoy this type of film, but having two of the same style of films back to back makes it hard for casual movie-goers to see the difference. It’s like having a big juicy steak, its so good you want it again so you rush out and have 3 more over the next week, well then when you go to a friends house and they serve steak, it’s a bit less special than the first time. Thus it is easy for casual fans to think “I just saw Black Pather four times, I only need to see Infinity War once”

In the end, this is all speculation, and we won’t know till the 2nd and third-weekend totals of Infinity War to know for sure if Black Panther affected it. Infinity War will have a monster opening, but will we see a Black Panther like second and third-week totals? Or will it be more like Last Jedi and start big then drop by 70 percent.