How does Wakanda Forever compare to the rest of the 2022 worldwide box office?

Wakanda Forever
Wakanda Forever

The movie theater business in 2022 was completely owned by Top Gun: Maverick, the film that bravely dared to see what would happen if they made a Top Gun sequel many decades after the first movie, if they put actual Tom Cruise in actual fighter jets, and if Paramount rejected the seemingly safe strategies of its risk-averse competition by refusing to put the movie on streaming—meaning, until relatively recently, you had to see it in theaters if you wanted to see it at all. The movie ended up making nearly $1.5 billion worldwide, so, clearly, all of those risks paid off.

But, this weekend, the first real potential competition for Top Gun: Maverick’s 2022 box office crown entered the ring, with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever debuting at $330 million worldwide. That’s obviously more than a billion short of Maverick’s total, but does Wakanda Forever have a shot at becoming the highest-grossing movie of the year?

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Probably not, to be honest, but it’s also way too early to really tell one way or the other. But for one thing, Maverick ran in theaters in the U.S. for more than 20 weeks, and (if you want to get technical) there aren’t that many weeks left in the year. Plus, it opened in May and rode a nice wave of COVID exhaustion (as in, people who are sick of worrying about COVID) into the summer, which is traditionally the big moviegoing season (everybody wants to get out of their houses, where they’ve been avoiding COVID, and into a different big room). So Maverick was perfectly positioned to make a shitload of money, and the fact that it was a huge crowd-pleasing blockbuster helped.

Still, if you ignore the timing aspect, there are some handy comparison points from the 2022 box office that can help us guess how Wakanda Forever is going to perform. Here’s the full top 12 for the year according to Box Office Mojo’s stats:

  1. Top Gun: Maverick - $1.4 billion

  2. Jurassic World Dominion - $1 billion

  3. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness - $955 million

  4. Minions: The Rise Of Gru - $936 million

  5. The Batman - $770 million

  6. Thor: Love And Thunder - $760 million

  7. Water Gate Bridge (Chinese war movie, the only one here without a wide domestic release) - $626 million

  8. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore - $405 million

  9. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 - $402 million

  10. Uncharted - $401 million

  11. Black Adam - $352 million

  12. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - $330 million

As you can see, this year’s two other Marvel movies both fell short of Maverick’s total, and while Wakanda Forever opened stronger than Love And Thunder did, it fell just short of the Doctor Strange sequel’s opening in the United States. It will probably hold on better than that movie did, since the reception seems to be a little warmer and it won’t have to directly compete with Top Gun, but any predictions are based on nothing but the fact that it opened strong enough to be the 12th biggest movie of the year and that the original Black Panther is the 14th biggest movie of all time (Top Gun: Maverick is the 11th).

Post-COVID, movies don’t really make as much money as they used to without also being a full-on cultural event like Maverick or Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jurassic World Dominion is the weird outlier, since nobody seemed to like that movie, but it made more than half of its $1 billion outside of the U.S., so maybe we’re just too involved in our stupid America-centric worldview). It seems unlikely that Wakanda Forever will break $1 billion, let alone $1.4 billion, but it’s also very likely that we have no idea what we’re talking about and that we’ll be completely wrong. That’s what happens when you make predictions based on nothing. But, that being said, the fact that there’s even anything to debate or discuss here is an encouraging sign that theaters have partially bounced back from the early days of the pandemic. Maybe someday a movie that is not a sequel or some sort will make $1 billion.

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