HOST: Last night, Marvel’s much-anticipated film Black Panther opened in theatres. It raked in over 25 million dollars at the box office—making it one of the highest-grossing opening nights for Marvel. And the film is proving a hit with black audiences—from hardcore comic book fans, to film buffs, to those who are just excited to finally see a movie with a cast of all-black characters. Jennifer Sigl reports.
SIGL: It’s opening night of Black Panther and inside Harlem’s Magic Johnson Theater at 125th Street, the third floor lobby is packed. By 8:30, a line has already formed for the 9 o’clock showing. Alexandra Moffett-Bateau bought her tickets a month and a half ago.
We’re just super excited to be supporting a black film that’s so groundbreaking in so many ways. We wanted to come see it in Harlem. This is one of the only black-owned theaters in the area.
SIGL: Moffett-Bateau says she’s there to support a film that moves black actors beyond stereotypes. Her friend Aja Burrell Wood is standing next to her in line, and both are wearing colorful, traditional African print fabrics.
I tried to put together the best of Wakanda fashions that I could think of. No better time to wear it and I was actually really excited to have the occasion.
SIGL: Wakanda is the fictional African country where the movie takes place. Something that fans of the original comic might know. Like, Rihanna. No, not that Rihanna. In the lobby, 14-year-old Rihanna, from the Bronx, has just seen the film. She’s so excited, she’s spilling popcorn everywhere.
I just love the diversity, how they kept to the African roots, with the all natural hair and the traditional clothing.
So do you give the movie five stars?
Oh yeah. 10, 10 stars. 15. It’s perfect. I loved it.
SIGL: William Foster is a comic book historian. He says the film is a milestone.
Oh, we are in geek heaven. The idea that we have a black superhero who’s in his own film, never thought we’d see the day.
SIGL: The star of the film is T’Challa, aka the Black Panther. Played by Chadwick Boseman, he has to battle enemy forces for his rightful place on the throne. The cast is full of big-name black actors from Michael B. Jordon to Lupita Nyong’o. Sheena Howard is a comic book writer and blogs about comics too. She says T’Challa and the other characters go beyond the two-dimensional roles often available to black actors.
We don’t get to see all of the elements of black existence in media and film which is part of the problem historically with the representation of black people. So when young people, and adults, can see themselves in a variety of different dimensions on film, it really does something for your self-concept.
SIGL: And, Howard says, Black Panther is effectively fighting another bad guy: the myth that people of color can’t sell movie tickets. The film is expected to take in up to 180 million dollars at the box office this weekend. Eric Kohn is deputy editor and chief critic at IndieWire. He says, the movie satisfies Marvel’s fan base without needing a cameo from Iron Man, or Captain America. At the end of the day, he says, it’s just well-made.
Even if you aren’t a Marvel person or even somebody who’s necessarily galvanized by the cultural significance of this movie, you might still get something out of it just because it’s really good filmmaking and you really do have the perfect balance of art and commerce.
SIGL: Back at Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, the film will be showing every half hour from 9 a.m. to 11 at night. Jennifer Sigl, Columbia Radio News.