How Black folks drove the record-breaking $235 million success of ‘Black Panther’

Black Panther
(Photo: Marvel)

Black folks showed up and showed out for Black Panther, which has smashed box office records in its opening weekend.

That mean, aunties, uncles and cousins came out strong to drive ticket sales to record highs. According to comScore, not only were 37 percent of ticket buyers African-American (at 35 percent), but Caucasians made up the next largest group (35 percent), followed by Hispanics (18 percent). That sort of demographic breakdown is a somewhat of an anomaly for a superhero movie.

On average, African-Americans make up about 15 percent of the audience. Women also turned out in force to see Black Panther, heralded for its portrayal of strong women and made up 45 percent of all ticket buyers (that share is usually 35-40 percent on a superhero movie’s opening weekend).

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So why was there such a strong African American turn-out?

This was a defining moment for Marvel to have a marquee movie directed by a black man with a largely all-black cast. The Ryan Coogler-directed movie secured the fifth-biggest domestic opening of all time after clawing its way past expectations.

Playing in 4,020 theaters, Black Panther exploded opening weekend with a record-shattering estimate of $201.8 million for the three-day weekend and a projected $235 million-plus for the four-day holiday frame, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Black created buzz on social media with posts long before the movie came out with hashtags like #BlackPantherSoLit and #MondayAfterBlackPanther.

But some of the biggest buzz also centered around what people were planning to wear to the opening from Kente cloth-inspired designs to dressing just like the Wakanda warriors in the movie. Just like Wakanda is a magical black nation, movie theaters were overflowing with enough black fashion and creativity to make you think you were in Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All of the Stars” video.

It was a cultural celebration that criss-crossed the globe in celebration of African pride.

Celebs accept the #BlackPantherChallenge

Another influential boxoffice driver initiated by Black folks was the #BlackPantherChallenge.

The challenge, in which people step forward to help underserved communities and children see the biggest movie of the year, started with Frederick Joseph. He launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Harlem kids see Black Panther and the campaign exceeded its $10,000 goal within three days.

“I want these children to be able to see that people who look like them can be superheroes, royalty, and more,” said Joseph. “All proceeds will go to paying for the private screening tickets for children and chaperones, as well as refreshments. The release of the film is February 16th, 2018, and the screenings will take place the following week between February 19th and 22nd.”

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Rapper TI, teamed up with Walmart to give out tickets to Black Panther in the Atlanta area, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Me and @Walmart joined efforts to support the community with free tickets for customers to attend an Advance Screening of @MarvelStudios @theblackpanther. We gave away 300 tickets to deserving families yesterday at the Cascade Walmart store. #BlackPanther,” T.I. tweeted on Tuesday.

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Snoop Dogg and Viola Davis have also stepped up to the plate.

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, known as “Little Miss Flint,” also took on the challenge. She and her cousins set up a GoFundMe page to help marginalized children in their community go to see the Marvel masterpiece.

And recently, Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer bought out an entire movie theater in Mississippi to give the community a chance to see Black Panther.

“I will be in [Mississippi] when this movie opens,” Spencer wrote on Instagram. “I think I will buy out a theatre in an underserved community there to ensure that all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero. I will let you know where and when Mississippi. Stay tuned.”

Sheryl Underwood bought out a theater on Saturday with snacks to support kids who could not have otherwise gotten a chance to see the movie, she said on her CBS show, The Talk.