“Black Panther” has left an indelible mark on the film industry that can’t be denied.
On Saturday, Ryan Coogler’s superhero film reached $665.4 million in domestic sales at the box office since its Feb. 16 nationwide release. It has now surpassed James Cameron’s 1997 film, “Titanic,” which earned $659.4 million during its time in U.S. theaters.
The Walt Disney Co. (No. 36 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and Marvel Studios film is now the third-highest grossing of all time in North America. The highest-grossing film is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($936.7 million) and “Avatar” ($760.5 million), also directed by Cameron, according to Box Office Mojo.
“Black Panther” has grossed $1.29 billion to date, globally, and currently ranks as the No. 10 top-grossing title of all time. Globally, “Titanic” earned $2.2 billion. In 1998, the film won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
In December, on the 20th anniversary of its release, The Library of Congress entered “Titanic” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into the National Film Registry. The movie was selected for its “cultural, historic and/or aesthetic importance.”
Twenty years ago, a film by a white male director with a predominately white cast drew Americans to the box office. But, in 2018, in less than two months, “Black Panther,” a film by a Black director, who is a social justice activist and the first Black person to direct a Marvel superhero movie has drawn audiences of all races to theaters in droves.
“Black Panther” has become a cultural phenomenon and is reflective of a cultural shift, which should also secure its place in the National Film Registry.
The 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report suggests that the industry at large should invest in hiring that is reflective of the U.S. population, which is almost 40 percent minority and at least 50 percent female.
The report analyzed the casts of and talent behind the top 200 theatrical releases of 2016 and 1,251 broadcast, cable and digital platform television shows from the 201516 season.
According to the report, in 2016, films with casts made up of 21 to 30 percent minority actors had the highest median global box office ticket sales and the highest median return on investment. Films with the most racially homogenous casts were the poorest financial performers.
Darnell Hunt, dean of the division of social sciences in the UCLA College is also an author of the Hollywood Diversity Report.
At a panel discussion in March, Hunt said that “‘Black Panther’ has proven such a cultural and economic force that, all by itself, it could change industry data to demonstrate an even more positive relationship between diversity in a film and its financial bottom line. In the process, the film could discredit myths such as the belief that movies with racial and ethnic minorities in lead roles wouldn’t draw audiences overseas that have prevented more such films from being made,” according to UCLA.
“It’s not often that you see two Black men in a movie playing a role of this importance. You see it with white actors, [like] ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ where it’s Brad Pitt and Matt Damon and George Clooney, and it’s like, ‘Why does that never happen with us'” Chadwick Boseman, who stars as T’Challa in “Black Panther” said in February.
“Hopefully the success of this will make it be commonplace. It’ll make Hollywood stop saying, ‘Well, your movies don’t travel.”