For African Americans, the idea of seeing the first major African American superhero on the big screen was enough to get old and young movie goers alike to rush out and buy tickets. But the power of the “Black Panther,” the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an African-American lead continued to smash box office records throughout this weekend’s opening release.
Not only is the movie the first super hero movie to feature an African American in the lead role, but it has a majority African American cast, with an African American director and co-writer and has created a sense of pride that the African American community rarely gets to enjoy in a Hollywood film. “Black Panther” is the 18th Disney-Marvel Film to debut at No. 1. But this movie is different. Starring Chadwick Boseman as the African King T’Challa/ “Black Panther” the leader of the fictional country of Wakanda and Michael B. Jordan as the villain and King T’Challa’s evil cousin Erik Killmonger the movie pairs two of Hollywood’s biggest African American stars into a story that all people no matter their ethnicity or background can enjoy.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Director Ryan Coogler said, “For me, coming up in the ’90s, we had three male stars that could front any kind of movie. They could act, they could do action, they could be funny, and they were sexy. There was Denzel, Will and Wesley, and they were never in a movie together. [With “Black Panther,”] I got the chance to make that Denzel-Will Smith movie I never got to see.”
The movie has been celebrated for creating opportunities and setting a precedent for other studios to pay attention. The “Black Panther” diminishes the idea that movies with a nearly all-Black cast, a contingent of strong Black women, and positive images of Black people won’t do well at the box office.
Co-star Letitia Wright certainly hopes so.
“It’s going to open up a lot of doors for many more films like this to be made,” she said in a recent Times interview. For Shuri, that positive representation of Black characters in an overwhelmingly white comic universe was a crucial draw of the picture.
With the final numbers not yet in, “Black Panther” is currently pacing to be the fourth or fifth highest opening of all-time in America. “Avengers“ is currently in fourth place with $206 million. Only the two recent Star Wars releases and Jurassic World have had higher grossing opening weekends.
However, the power of the “Black Panther” was not only felt in the U.S. The movie pulled in $169 million outside of the U.S. bringing its worldwide opening weekend total to $361 million. This astronomical number puts it in the top 5 of all superhero movies with the likes of “Captain America: Civil War,” “Iron Man III” and “The Avengers.”
“Black Panther” was a huge draw at IPic and IMax Theatres. Historically the upscale theatres have not had wide spread distribution of African American Films and have had limited screen releases, however this weekend the IPic Theatre in Pasadena dedicated 4 of it’s six screens to showing of The “Black Panther.” All shows were sold out, and the movie started selling out well in advance of February 15 when the film premiered in limited theatres. The movie made about $52 million for IMAX around the world in the opening weekend and is re-positioning the thought process throughout the movie business. “Representation matters. ”Get Out,” ”Wonder Woman,” ”Coco,” and now “Black Panther” show Hollywood that authenticity and inclusiveness wins,” said Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster in an interview.