“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” Set Records While “The Last of Us” Chases “House of the Dragon”

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One of the questions I have about feature film distribution is whether all the (traditional) studios have it backwards. Right now, the studios are in a rush to shorten their feature film distribution windows—especially theatrical—as much as possible to take advantage of the marketing buzz of the initial window to help drive streaming.

Disney has taken advantage of this as much as anyone, sometimes releasing their theatrical films, like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Lightyear, on streaming just 47 days after they came out in theaters.

My question is whether studios should go the other way. Consider that Disney held Thor: Love and Thunder for 9 weeks, and it had a strong debut. And then Disney held Black Panther: Wakanda Forever for 82 days after its release in theaters and—as you’ll see—it did great too. Now, both of those films had excuses to delay their streaming debut. In Thor 4’s case, Disney held back its release for Disney+ Day. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, naturally, kicked off Black History month. 

Wakanda Forever is clearly the biggest story of the week because it had a monster debut. Just how monster? You’ll see. That plus another The Last of Us check-in, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, a new The Great British Baking Show spinoff, and more. 

Plus I have a new and improved appendix, collecting weekly data releases from multiple different sources, making this the most thorough streaming data collection you’ll get in your inbox each week. Let’s dig in.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen, TV Time, Samba TV, company datecdotes, Google Trends, and IMDb. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of January 30th to February 5th.)

Film – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Sets Nielsen Records

The last few weeks have been light, especially for new TV shows (as a reminder, the last few weeks of January, the 13th, 23rd and 30th), and nothing illustrates this better than the fact that three of the top six titles this week were films, and the other three were acquired titles (New Amsterdam, The Last of Us and The Walking Dead). Here’s the film top ten and you can see there were some big debuts:

But the big, big winner was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, becoming only the fourth title since 2021 to eclipse the 30 million hour mark on its debut. It joins (in reverse release order) Glass Onion (37.1 million hours), Hocus Pocus 2 (45.4) and Red Notice (30.7). Going back to 2020, only Wonder Woman 1984 (37.5) and Hamilton (32.2) have joined this exclusive club.

Black Panther 2 did so well, Samba TV even gave it the datecdote treatment, though as you can see it doesn’t smash the competition in this view, and most of the Marvel films do roughly the same in terms of household reach:

Those two data sources back up Disney’s datecdote they dropped after the release, that Black Panther 2 set records for Disney+. So here’s the updated Disney+ datecdote table:

And now I should also mention that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever finished 2022 as the 3rd highest grossing movie released in 2022. It made a whopping $453 million in the U.S. and Canada. (Since this is a U.S. ratings report, that’s the domestic total, but globally it earned another $400 million.) Interestingly, Disney also released BP 2 for home entertainment, but not until after its streaming release. From Wikipedia:

It was also released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on February 7, 2023. The home media includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and various behind-the-scenes featurettes.”

This implies some fairly stark economic math we need to explore deeper: this film smashed it at theaters and also smashed it on streaming. Interesting.

Two caveats, of course, since we’re all about diving deep into nuance around here. First, Wakanda Forever is around 2.7 hours run time, much longer than the other superhero films it’s vying against, including Thor 4 (2 hours), Doctor Stranger 2 (2.1 hours) and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2.2 hours). Only Eternals is nearly as long. (And it felt like it.) 

Here, I made a chart for you:

So Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was 30% longer than Doctor Strange 2, but did nearly 60% more viewership. And they came out on the same day! (A Wednesday.) So accounting for run time, this still is a big, big launch. Speaking of release dates, here are those various titles with viewership per day:

So Black Panther 2 is still tied for number one. Do I have to go one level deeper, to “Viewership Per Day Per Adjusted Hour”? That crazy metric which I don’t really like? Fine…

Phew. So accounting for everything, BP2 drops behind two other films, but just barely, and one other superhero film, Thor 4. But we’re quibbling here; this was another big superhero success for Disney, no matter how you cut the data. 

Bottom line? Disney’s gotta be very, very, very happy with this performance.

Quick Notes on Film

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wasn’t the only theatrical title to debut on the streaming charts this week, as it was joined by Minions: The Rise of Gru. Of course, this isn’t Minions 3’s first bite at the streaming apple, as it came out on Peacock on 23-September. (Remember, Universal titles go to Prime Video after four months on Peacock and Dreamworks/Illumination Universal titles go to Netflix after four months.)

For those keeping track, this is another theatrical title from Universal (via Illumination and/or Dreamworks) to just really crush it on Netflix. Here’s the viewership of various kids titles.(Hey, ESG, you keep repeating this, why don’t you write up a big series proving it? Well, you got it! Coming soon.)

– As for titles from previous weeks, You People had a great hold into its second week, basically flat at 25.8 million hours. Now, when it comes to viewership per day, it naturally decreased, but that’s still a good hold. You could compare that to Shotgun Wedding on Prime Video, which dropped week over week. To show that, here’s two looks: The viewership per week, and the “viewership per day” per week:

– Not all theatrical titles are guaranteed hits. Lyle, Lyle Crocodile from Sony also came to streaming and only got 6.0 million hours. In library titles, Flushed Away is a 2006 animated film from Dreamworks (distributed by Paramount way back then) and Aardman Features (the folks behind Wallace and Gromit), and it got 4.6 million hours, which is a lot for a film over 15 years old. 

– There were some adult films. (Or films “for adults”, to make it sound less skeevy.) Netflix’s documentary Pamela: A Love Story got 9.1 million hours on a Tuesday debut. That title has less than 10K IMDb reviews, which is a bit on the low end. Viking Wolf, a foreign-language title from Norway this time, has the IMDb scores to match, with a 5.1 on 4.6K reviews. (Both are low.) 

– On TV Time, beside Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the most notable story that jumps out to me is that Glass Onion: A Benoit Blanc Mystery has held onto its TV Time rankings really well! (You People as well!)

– As you’ll see in the appendix, I’m including a roundup of various weekly reports by different companies that come across my desk, including Samba TV, who has started publishing a weekly streaming top ten report in The Wrap. (Samba TV later puts them out on Twitter.) Their seventh biggest title of the week was Netflix’s True Spirit, a based-on-a-true-story family film about an Australian teenager sailing around the world solo. So that appearance saved this movie from being a “Dog Not Barking”, but I’d still count it as a miss since it missed the Nielsen charts.

– It was a light week for “Dogs Not Barking”. HBO Max’s Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, which premiered on CNN first, was the biggest title that failed to make the charts. Finally, I wouldn’t expect Copenhagen Cowboy: Nightcall with Nicholas Winding Refn, a twenty minute documentary about the making of his TV show that came out in January, to make the charts, but Netflix really had high hopes for Copenhagen Cowboy, an early contender for DNB of 2022.

Television – The Last of Us. Just Wow.


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The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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