Black Panther roars into theaters



Marvel’s Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, was released Feb. 16 and has grossed $704 million as of March 1. It stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Letitia Wright as Shuri.

Black Panther is about the heir to the throne of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, who returns to find his sovereignty under threat. It combines futuristic aesthetics with African tribal influences to create a fantastical world.

This is the first time a black superhero has gotten their own superhero franchise movie, as well as the biggest global debut for a predominantly black cast, creating excitement amongst long-waiting fans and the black community. It is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Feb. is an unusual time for a major studio to release a movie as sales wane during the latter winter months. Some suggest its release was to coincide with Black History Month. Others suggest that perhaps the studio was setting the film up for failure, or at least expecting it to do poorly.

Nevertheless, Black Panther has topped the lifetime gross of Marvel and D.C. movies, with the title of second-highest four-day opening of all time, only following Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was only expected to make $165 million. It also had the largest Feb. opening weekend and the largest winter season opening weekend.

Following the release of the high-grossing Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, another director of color, and the release of Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, audiences are enjoying superhero films from a perspective other than Marvel’s default of white males.

Jenkins tweeted: “Huge congrats #BlackPanther on the staggering weekend. So happy for your incredibly meaningful success. Wonder Woman posse can’t wait for break in schedule to see it! You’re changing the world. What a wonderful thing! Congrats to you all @theblackpanther #RyanCoogler”

The success of Black Panther has helped disprove the myth black films don’t “travel well,” meaning they don’t do well internationally.

National Public Radio’s Andrew Limbong said on the NPR podcast All Things Considered, “[Exhibitor Relations box office analysist Jeff] Bock says Black Panther on its own is operating at Avengers-level box office pull. Disney CEO Bob Iger tweeted, quote, ‘the world has embraced Black Panther, which has obliterated expectations, broken records and shattered myths.’ So is this myth that black films don’t do well overseas finally dead?”

“I don’t think that conversation is closed, but it’s closing,” Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association, said.

Many fans hope the success of Black Panther will lead to more diverse big-budget films.