The Real Reason Black Panther Shattered The Box Office & Expectations

Photo: ASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Black Panther has earned $426.6 million globally. In North America, it debuted to $242 million, coming in second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These numbers are huge, and they surpass all original expectations for the film. A breakdown of Black Panther’s viewership reveals that 37% of ticket buyers were African-American, Caucasians made up 35%, and Hispanics were 18% of the ticket buying population. These numbers are a far cry from the 15% of an audience that African-American viewers typically occupy for superhero films. Similarly, women were 45% of ticket buyers, up 10% for a normal movie opening. In other words, people showed up and showed out to see this film, and I know why.
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If you don’t have plans to see the film and you’re tired of hearing people rave about how good it is, I can’t be of any help. Every good thing you’ve heard about the film is true. The characters have depth, the storyline is relevant but fresh, everyone looks amazing, and it’s one of the biggest wins for Hollywood diversity in a very long time. I am no one’s comic nerd or superhero movie enthusiast, but even I know Black Panther was epic. And its universal appeal certainly contributed to the astounding opening weekend numbers. But the cultural significance of Black Panther cannot be understated.
Marvel and Disney’s biggest and Blackest win to date took over the zeitgeist and traversed the boundary between a thing you needed to see and something you needed to do over the weekend. Fans dressed up — either as characters from the film, or in outfits inspired by African and/or Black history — and gathered friends to make an event of it. Before the midnight premieres on Thursday, I saw friends pregaming and taking shots before claiming their seats in the cinema. Black Panther’s opening weekend felt more like a nationwide festival, with a headlining act that we could see at any given moment as long as we had tickets. The impact of this film on communities is a big part of why people came out in droves to see it. To be honest, I’d have this over Coachella, any day.
I first saw Black Panther at a press screening in January. It was before the general public knew what to expect, and many of us showed up in our work clothes for the event. But tonight, I’m returning to the theater to see it again. This time I’m braving the Times Square crowds with no fewer than 20 other Black women, all of us dressed in all black. Many of us have already seen the movie and will probably go see it again in the coming weeks as it inevitably makes it way to Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms later this year. However, this is specific opportunity to coordinate outfits, swap side-eyes during the movie, get an amazing picture, and contribute to the legacy of the film is one that is only available for a limited time. Tonight, we get to make sure that Wakanda indeed lasts forever.