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Will ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Be the Film That Dethrones ‘Black Panther’?

Dave McNary

What movie can dislodge Disney-Marvel’s blockbuster “Black Panther” from the top spot at the box office? It’s looking like another Disney movie, time-travel fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time,” is the logical candidate to do so in three weeks, during the March 9-11 weekend.

Black Panther” could take in as much as $100 million during the upcoming Feb. 23-25 weekend and it’s likely to lead during the March 2-4 frame, when Jennifer Lawrence’s “Red Sparrow” is pegged to open in the $18 million-$25 million range for Fox, while MGM’s “Death Wish” should come in with $15 million-$20 million.

Initial tracking released this week for “A Wrinkle in Time” shows a range of $34 million-$37 million — hardly a blockbuster number at the moment, though those figures can shift significantly by the time the film opens. But that may be enough to beat “Black Panther,” which will eventually have to start slowing down its record-breaking pace.

Numerous schools start their spring vacations that week, giving PG-rated “A Wrinkle in Time” plenty of time to corral young audiences in the weeks leading up to Easter. Ultimately, Disney’s marketing muscle may be able to elevate “A Wrinkle in Time” to more than its current tracking level. After all, “Black Panther” was tracking to open in the $100 million-$120 million range less than a month ago. Young adult fantasy-adventure “Divergent” opened to $54 million in March 2014, while Disney’s “Jungle Book” opened in April 2016 to an impressive $103 million.

With “Black Panther” taking in an astounding $263.1 million in its first five days in North America — already more than halfway to becoming the 10th film to top $500 million in domestic box office — it will likely still be a major factor at the nation’s multiplexes for many weeks to come, particularly during the spring vacation period.

Based on the beloved children’s book, “A Wrinkle in Time” has plenty of star power with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mindy Kaling. Jennifer Lee, who wrote and co-directed “Frozen” with Chris Buck, penned the adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel. Ava DuVernay, the director of “Selma” and the Oscar-nominated documentary “13th,” was hired by Disney for the gig in early 2016, making her the first woman of color to helm a $100 million-budgeted movie.

The story follows a group of children as they travel through time and visit strange worlds in order to find their missing father.

Hollywood has seen plenty of success in film adaptations of prominent children’s literature with the eight-film Harry Potter franchise being the top performer with $7.7 billion in worldwide box office. Disney generated more than $950 million from 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” based on Rudyard Kipling stories. The studio also took in more than $1 billion from 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland,” though the 2016 sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass” was a rare flop for Disney.

Three film adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” published in the 1950s, took in $1.5 billion worldwide between 2005 and 2010. Universal’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” grossed $345 million worldwide in 2000, 43 years after the book was published.

Disney has eight more releases for 2018 following “A Wrinkle in Time”: “Avengers: Infinity War” on May 4; “Solo: A Star Wars Story” on May 25; “The Incredibles 2” on June 15; “Ant-Man and the Wasp” on July 6; the untitled Christopher Robin Project on Aug. 3; “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” on Nov. 2; “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” on Nov. 21; “Mary Poppins Returns” on Dec. 25.

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