Opening weekend for Marvel’s “Black Panther” is here, and it’s clear that the movie is poised to both break the box office and become a huge influence on those who view it.
With “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler behind the camera and an all-star cast including Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, the hype is turning local movie theatres into the Black Panther’s home of Wakanda.
For some, “Black Panther” is a pivotal part of the Marvel cinematic universe ahead of the next “Avengers” film coming this summer. But for the Black community, “Black Panther” is not just another highly-anticipated film.
For once, Black characters aren’t taking a backseat in a feature film of this magnitude. Seeing us on the big screen as kings and queens is far more substantial than a Hotep saying it at a gas station. That reason is why so many are so invested into this film—and why many are putting their money where their mouth is.
According to Variety, “Black Panther” is projected to make at least $170 million its opening weekend, but more than just the normal ticket purchases are helping the film surge. A number of organizations have rented out theaters to offer screenings of the film, creating ways to see the film either for free or with a community of like-minded individuals.
The wave of “Black Panther” theater buyouts began with Frederick Joseph, a New York City resident who started a GoFundMe fundraising page to raise $35,000 for local kids to see the movie. His successful campaign, and the hashtag #BlackPantherChallenge, inspired others to create similar projects. All told, more than $300,000 has been generated in theatre rentals for kids to see the film.
The #BlackPantherChallenge has helped create anticipation for the movie and motivated communities across the country to come together for this significant moment in Black film. The Baltimore/D.C. area is no exception: there’s a Wakanda-themed bar, a couple of Black Panther parties and a group listening of the movie’s amazing official soundtrack at Songbyrd Lounge.
In addition, there have been a number of private screenings for the movie. The week started with a private screening of “Black Panther” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, followed by a panel with Coogler and cast members. After raising more than $3,000 dollars in a little over a week, D.C. collective Made In The DMV and music group Black Alley rented a movie theatre for 1,000 middle schoolers to see the movie.
Not feeling the middle school crowd? Brandon Howard, also known as Phenom Blak from the Where’s My 40 Acres podcast and one of the original creators of NegroCon—the first-ever Black podcast convention—is hosting a screening of the movie for fans. D.C. radio station WPFW 89.3 is also hosting a private screening, which includes a discussion with Morgan State University professor Dr. Jared Ball and Black media scholar Dr. Todd Burroughs. Even the AARP is hosting a private screening of “Black Panther”!
Aside from all of the festivities, “Black Panther” is a film that will show how impactful diversity can be in a sometimes tone-deaf entertainment industry, and also touch generations to come. The #BlackPantherChallenge may help the movie break financial records, but the people who fill those seats will be a part of something bigger. This may be one of the very few moments in film history when a movie like this grabs your attention—it feels like the beginning of a new age in the industry.