Black ExperienceEntertainment

Michelle Obama on ‘Black Panther’: ‘Young People Will Finally See Superheroes that Look Like Them’

As the superhero movie “Black Panther” roared at the box office over President’s Day weekend, former first lady Michelle Obama expressed why she loves the film that set a record for a February opening.

Obama tweeted on Monday:

Disney (No. 36 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” was released on Friday, Feb. 16 nationwide. Obama’s review gave a nod to the fact that the big-budget studio film is unprecedented as it has a predominantly Black cast, and it will also “inspire people of all backgrounds.”

According to a comScore audience survey, the film received five out of five stars from diverse audiences — 37 percent Black, 35 percent white, 18 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian and 5 percent other.

Breaking Records

“Black Panther” is Marvel’s first movie directed by an African American — 31-year-old Ryan Coogler, who made his debut as a director with “Fruitvale Station.”

The Marvel film, set in the fictitious African nation of Wakanda, has already set multiple records.

It earned $201.8 million Friday through Sunday in North America, and an estimated $235 million in ticket sales Friday through Monday. Disney will report the final numbers on Tuesday.

“Black Panther” set a record for a February opening and for a President’s Day weekend debut. “Deadpool,” which earned $152 million domestically over the same holiday weekend in 2016, was the previous record holder.

Ryan Reynolds, star of “Deadpool,” tweeted on Friday:

“Black Panther” set the record for the largest opening for an African American director, soaring past “The Fate of the Furious,” directed by F. Gary Gray, which opened to $98 million last April.

The film also “nabbed one of the top four-day grosses of all time after stomping past ‘Jurassic World’ ($234.1 million) to land behind ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ ($241.6 million) and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($288.1 million),” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It is the second-biggest superhero movie opening for Marvel behind “The Avengers.”

“Results like this go beyond anything anyone ever could have hoped for,” Dave Hollis, president of global distribution at Disney, told The Los Angeles Times. Hollis said the momentum of the film “has left us unable, even, to keep up with projections. It’s unbelievable.”

The movie featuring a cast of outstanding actors, including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira, comes decades after films by Black artists struggled to gain traction in Hollywood.

Some in Hollywood believe that executives may attribute “Black Panther’s” success to the massive production and marketing machine behind it rather than the predominantly Black casts being the box office draw.

“I think no matter how much money this movie makes, it will be seen by a lot of people in [studio] staff meetings and greenlight committees as just a one-off,” a prominent African American figure in the Hollywood development world, “asking for anonymity so as not to be perceived as criticizing potential business partners,” told The Washington Post. “And the question is: How many more ‘one-offs’ will we have before they realize it’s a pattern?”

UCLA’s 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report found that films with relatively diverse casts have the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment.

“Black Panther” received an A-plus on CinemaScore in audience exit polling its opening night, which means that great word-of-mouth promotion will take place.

Other films with predominantly Black casts that have also received an A-plus in the past two years are “Hidden Figures” (2016), which was number one at the box office in its first weekend in wide release, and “Girls Trip” (2017) opened at number two.

During its time in theaters, “Hidden Figures” earned just under $170 million in total domestic ticket sales and almost $235 million worldwide, and “Girls Trip,” just above $115 million domestic and approximately $140 million worldwide.

With “Get Out” (2017), starring Daniel Kaluuya who is also in “Black Panther,” Jordan Peele became the first Black writer-director to make over $100 million in the box office for a debut film.

The earnings for these movies are less than what “Black Panther” will accumulate as they are not big-budget films, but the box office draw shows there is indeed a pattern in moviegoers wanting more diverse casts on-screen and then spreading the word about the film.

Hollywood execs will have to adapt or lose revenue.

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