In terms of box office grosses, "Black Panther" could be one of the biggest films ever made.
But it’s also significant because the story behind those dollars represents something bigger — namely, a diverse audience unlike any previous film superhero tale. It's just as rare for a film by a black director (in this case, Ryan Coogler) with a cast that's almost entirely comprised of black actors. During opening weekend, the audience included a nearly equal percentage of black and white ticket buyers. Latinos also showed up in large numbers.
And, the audience included way more women than typically attend superhero movies — "Wonder Woman" not included. Kyle Buchanan, senior editor of Vulture.com, explains:
"Black Panther," which is a standalone Marvel movie, actually has more significant female characters in it than any other Marvel movie . I think that's significant and I think that points to a whole lot of outdated thinking about what works in superhero movies.
In general, Buchanan says that "Black Panther” is a lesson to Hollywood to be less conservative. But it's been taught that message before:
All that talk about whether black movies can travel overseas or whether they can open up to these numbers — it's just bunk until somebody comes along and disproves it. As far as I'm concerned, this was disproven decades ago when Will Smith was a huge global superstar. But too often, Hollywood will forget the lessons and they'll look for the most conservative path possible.