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‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Doesn’t Have Fantasy Debut at Box Office

Director Ava Duvernay's family-friendly adventure finishes second to 'Black Panther.'

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There’s been a wrinkle in this weekend’s box office saga.

Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time debuted in second place with $33.3 million — seen as a disappointment, fairly or unfairly, considering all the buzz surrounding director Ava Duvernay’s film adaptation of the classic children’s fantasy novel.

Instead, the top spot went to Black Panther for the fourth week in a row, adding $41 million to its domestic haul of $562 million. That already makes the film, which brought landmark diversity to the superhero genre, the seventh highest grossing film of all-time in North America, according to ComScore.

“It’s kind of a disappointing opening (for A Wrinkle in Time) given the talent involved and the expectations,” Paul Dergabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife.

“In any other environment though, this would have been the No. 1 movie. Right now, Black Panther‘s unprecedented staying power has made it a much more formidable foe than anyone could have predicted.”

Including, obviously Disney, the studio behind both its films.

Not that the studio accountants are having a bad weekend: Those heroic Wakandans are dominating all across the globe. Buoyed by a strong opening in China, Black Panther earned $100 million internationally this weekend, to push the film over the $1 billion mark.

But this weekend was supposed to belong to A Wrinkle in Time, about a young girl (Storm Reid) who travels across the universe to find her missing father. The stars were supposed to align with a bigger opening, considering the cosmic power of a cast that includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Mindy Kaling. Duvernay had aspired to inspire girls of color by diversifying the characters in a way absent from Madeleine L’Engle’s original book, much in the way boys of color could daydream about being the Black Panther.

That clearly didn’t go according to script as A Wrinkle in Time was hampered by mediocre reviews (42 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes) and poor word of mouth.

Expectations may have been too high: A Wrinkle in Time debuted significantly higher than recent projects in that genre, including Steven Spielberg’s 2016 child-friendly flick, The BFG ($17 million) and the 2015 Hugh Jackman vehicle, Pan ($15 million). 

Wrinkle also actually beat Black Panther on Friday, $10.2 million to $9.9 million, but lost steam, likely an indication moviegoers weren’t in a hurry for repeat viewings.

Dergarabedian, though, points to ComScore’s PostTrak survey which found 13-17 year olds who did see the film, really loved it, indicating A Wrinkle in Time could find more traction in coming weeks. Family-friendly movies also tend to do well on home video.

“The film is in good company with several wide-release newcomers that have been completely dominated by Black Panther,” said Dergarabedian, referring to a stretch in which the Marvel flick annihilated Natalie Portman’s Annihilation and disarmed Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow among others.

“Tough reviews combined with competition from Black Panther made it a tougher go than you would have imagined when you looked at A Wrinkle in Time on paper six months ago.”