We knew it would be big, but… Jesus.
Black Panther, Creed director Ryan Coogler’s contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, capitalized on deafening buzz, cultural relevance, and rave reviews to capture one of the largest opening weekends in movie history. According to Box Office Mojo, the picture delivered an estimated $201.7 million from Friday to Sunday; that makes it one of only five movies to cross the $200 million in its first three days (after Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World, and the first Avengers). Throw in another $34 million thanks to the Presidents Day holiday, and you’ve got the third highest four-day gross of all time.
If you’d like to put that into comic book movie perspective: A film featuring Black Panther, a character basically introduced to general (i.e., non-comic-book-reading) moviegoers in Captain America: Civil War less than two years ago, grossed more in its first four days than Justice League – which featured nearly every iconic DC character, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash – has made in its entire run.
Now, a case could be made that Disney – an arguably evil empire whose choke hold on mass culture is already worrisomely gigantic and only poised to grow – making a yet another shitload of money is far from cause for celebration and y’know what, yes, this is true. But here are your counterpoints:
1) For decades, the financing of films by and about people of color has been hedged by the pernicious falsehood that those films don’t perform commercially overseas (where, more of then than not, the money is made these days). It’s a bullshit excuse, fueled by racism, fear, and love for the staus quo, and it’s been proven false time and time again. Can we finally lay it to rest?
2) Ryan Coogler is one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation, and a Ryan Coogler movie making bank is an unalloyed good. It buys him several years of making whatever he wants to make, and so far, everything he’s wanted to make has killed.
3) On the heels of last year’s massive success for Wonder Woman, the takeaway is clear for studios: for as long as we can remember, the common wisdom has held that blockbusters required white, male protagonists. Those days are over. Catch up.