What is it about the fictional country of Wakanda and its king’s mantle of The Black Panther that has resonated in the very gut of people around the world?
This question had critics scratching their heads until the first ten minutes flashed before their eyes.
Wakanda is everything that we want in a metropolis (pun intended). Black Panther, the movie, debut this weekend with a Blackity-Black star-studded cast to a world that traditionally likes their superhero…. well lets just say less ethnic.
But that did not stop the crowds from coming in historic numbers? NO. Movie lovers from Harlem to the Ukraine, from Oakland to Brazil flooded theaters to see what promised to be (and delivered) the most visually stimulating scooping of comic book vibranium ever! And it did not miss. With a limited international release, during its first long weekend (Friday to Monday), Marvel’s Black Panther earned an estimated $387 million in global sales, according to comScore.
Part of the magic potion is while this movie looked and felt very African— the scene with Lupita and Danai rescuing what could have been the Boko Haram girls easily— it was still very diasporic including a plethora of Black experiences. Whether it was inside the culture Hip-Hop slang and jokes, particular nuances that come from only being around Pookie and ‘em, the maternal way Angela Bassett tried to shut down Michael B. Jordan, how the director made Bassett look like Storm which is a nod to how T’Challa would eventual fall for an marry a woman that looks like his mama, or even the real life tug-a-war between the Alphas and Ques on who the Jabari tribe represented the most with either their bark or grunt, people of color in particular (and those who love our culture) around the world absorbed the Black Panther mania with welcomed fantasy and ease. The writing and the direction was brilliant— and the trailers let you know— prompting ticket buyers to pre-order in record breaking numbers.
Of course, a healthy three quarter year marketing campaign from Disney and all of “The Mouse’s” resources helped.
While exact numbers are not available, the $200 million approved by Disney’s chief exectutive, Robert A. Igle has been public for some time. Taking a chance on Ryan Coogler (who has proven to be a pretty promising director) was a gamble. However, he proved that when you bet on Black you always win. And Disney won big, making their initial investment back in one weekend.
“The concept of an African story, with actors of African descent at the forefront, combined with the scale of modern franchise filmmaking, is something that hasn’t really been seen before,” Mr. Coogler, the director, told The Hollywood Reporter. “You feel like you’re getting the opportunity of seeing something fresh, being a part of something new, which I think all audiences want to experience regardless of whether they are of African descent or not.”
This proved to be true. Black Panther did not only score big returns domestically with fans familiar with the character from their childhood, but it banged out top numbers in Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, the Ukraine and in the United Kingdom. One place where it did not best the opening weekend was in Germany, where Fifty Shades Freed outsold it.
In the next few weeks Disney will trickle release Black Panther in the key markets of Russia, Japan and China. Out of the three, studio heads are hoping that China, which is the world’s fastest-growing movie market, catches the Wakanda fever like the rest of the world.