Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

‘Black Panther.’

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther has set new benchmarks worldwide for movies directed by and largely starring African-Americans.

The Ryan Coogler-directed superhero movie’s US opening weekend ranks as the fifth highest of all time while the estimated global tally of $US370.5 million is the 15th biggest, and that’s without China, Japan and Russia.

In Australia the action-adventure starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, crown prince of the mythical state of Wakanda, rang up $10.5 million at 303 locations and $11.6 million with previews. That’s the industry’s second best debut ever in February, behind Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015.

Kudos to Melbourne’s Luma, which created more than 200 VFX shots for the adaptation of the Marvel comic book.

In the US the film which co-stars Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis hauled in an estimated $US201.8 million in three days, the second biggest opening for a Marvel title behind The Avengers, and $US235 million over the four-day President’s Day frame.

Deadline commented: “After the industry embarrassment of #OscarsSoWhite three years ago, Black Panther is bound to incentivize the industry beyond wishes, not only opening the doors to more inclusive storytelling, but also further demonstrating that there’s a strong business in four-quad tentpoles featuring actors of colour.”

Here, Disney’s blockbuster singlehandedly boosted the top 20 titles’ total to $19.9 million, up 35 per cent on the previous weekend.

Universal’s Fifty Shade Freed plunged by 50 per cent, taking $2.3 million in its second weekend. The third edition of the franchise directed by James Foley has scored $10.8 million, tracking well below the predecessors.

Repeat business clearly is sustaining Fox’s The Greatest Showman, which whistled up $941,000 in its eighth stanza, easing by a mere 19 per cent. The musical drama directed by Aussie Michael Gracey has generated a uniformly lucrative $29.4 million in Oz, $154.4 million in the US and $185.6 million internationally.

Launched by Universal after scoring five Oscar nominations, rookie director/writer Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird fetched a decent $953,000 at 237 locations and nearly $1.6 million with previews. The semi-autobiographical coming-of-age movie starring Saoirse Ronin and Laurie Metcalfe has grossed $46.2 million in the US for indie distrib A24.

Aussie director Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya reached $7.1 million after drumming up $532,000 in its fourth outing for Roadshow. Pro-rata, that is a far better result than in the US where the biopic on disgraced American figure skater Tonya Harding starring Margot Robbie has brought in a modest $27 million.

In its second weekend, Adam Robitel’s supernatural thriller Insidious: The Final Key tumbled by 50 per cent, a typical decline for the genre, taking $414,000 for Sony, which brings the total to $1.6 million.

Sony’s megahit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle climbed to $47.9 million after grabbing $409,000 in its eighth weekend as its global haul rocketed to $904.6 million.

Among the other Oscar contenders, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri advanced to $9.4 million after making $332,000 in its seventh sojourn for Fox.

Director Joe Wright’s WW2 drama Darkest Hour minted $291,000 in its sixth outing for Universal, reaching $6.4 million.

Christian Gudegast’s heist thriller Den of Thieves is on its last legs after scoring $2.8 million in three weekends for Roadshow.

Sicheng Chen’s caper Detective Chinatown 2, which follows whiz-kid Feng (Liu Haoran) as he is lured to New York for his uncle’s wedding and instead finds he’s asked to solve a murder as part of the World Detective Contest, captured a sturdy $186,000 in its first weekend at 25 cinemas for CMC and a stellar $154.7 million in China.

Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country added $153,000 to its takings, dipping by 22 per cent in its fourth frame although Transmission expanded the release from 73 to 85 screens. The period Western starring Hamilton Morris, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown and Matt Day has earned $1.16 million.

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