The U.S. media and entertainment industry is a $703 billion market, comprised of businesses that produce and distribute motion pictures, television programs and commercials along with streaming content, music and audio recordings, broadcast, radio, book publishing and video game. The “Black Panther” audiences are often those hopeful of America becoming a “colorblind society.” To the average eye, this year it looks like Hollywood’s been on a roll producing movies showcasing blacks.
Blacks are flocking to theaters to see “Black Panther.” Seemingly obsessed with the symbolism of it all, Blacks have not been excited about anything like this as a collective since President Obama’s inauguration. “Black Panther” broke records to become the top-grossing film with a Black director and predominantly Black cast.
Black kids have memorized lines from the movie in school settings, adult clubs and organizations have made going to “Black Panther” a social event. The Marvel blockbuster also made $235 million domestically, the most ever for a February release. Churches, student groups, sororities, fraternities and family groups are buying out thousands of theater seats and attending en masse.
“Black Panther” is poised to become one of Marvel Studios’ most critically and commercially successful releases ever. It has passed a billion dollars in revenue, and a cast of Blacks had big paydays. The film has the lauded “crossover” appeal.
It depicts an African community that has resisted colonization and remains self-sufficient, empowered and strong. But at its core, “Black Panther” is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name.
Wesley Snipes expressed interest in working on a Black Panther film in 1992, but the project did not come to fruition. In September 2005, Marvel Studios announced a Black Panther film as one of 10 based on Marvel characters and distributed by Paramount Pictures. By 2016, “Black Panther” was bankrolled with a predominantly black cast. Principal photography took place from January to April 2017, at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in metropolitan Atlanta and Busan, South Korea.
It premiered in Los Angeles on Jan. 29 and was released theatrically across the U.S. on Feb. 16, in 2D, 3D, IMAX and other premium formats. The film is the highest-grossing of 2018. So, when all was said and done, “Black Panther” cost $200 million to make. Audience surveys placed the African-American audience share at 37 percent.
“Black Panther” is selling out as African activists, churches and schools buy hundreds of thousands of tickets that help it break movie industry records.
Marvel Studios and ABC News are owned by the Disney Co. Movie companies, and their agents have been holding screenings as grass-roots events where hundreds of campaigns rent out theaters so those from underprivileged situations can see the movie.
But at the end of the day, Walt Disney is set to make lots of money from producing a film that caters to Black Americans’ need for acknowledgment, and its success among Blacks emphasizes our satisfaction with symbols in lieu of substance. But as the old saying goes, “Blacks have been down so long that anything looks like up.”
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.