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What Black Panther’s Success Means for the Future of Movies

Generally, this time of year is slow at the box office. With the Oscars on the horizon, it’s in some ways still the tail end of the previous cinema year, and even with summer blockbuster season creeping earlier and earlier, the big-budget tentpoles don’t start rolling out for another six weeks or so. A couple of years ago, Deadpool opened with $152 million at the domestic box office over Presidents Day weekend and folks thought the Earth had tilted on its axis. This weekend, though, Black Panther made that look like a half-eaten chimichanga. After last week saw projections for the film climb ever upward, it ultimately earned more than $235 million in the US, and shattered more records than a vibranium turntable needle. It is nothing short of a phenomenon—and one that should prove once and for all what it is moviegoers actually want.

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There is, of course, one big reason why folks turned out for Black Panther. As the first major Marvel movie to feature a black leading character, director Ryan Coogler’s film provides a hero—and story—that audiences have wanted for a long time. (To paraphrase my colleague Jason Parham, it broadened the scope of what a superhero movie is capable of.) Large groups of friends went—some dressed up for the occasion—to experience opening weekend together. Crowdfunders bought tickets to help kids see heroes who looked like them on the big screen. Even folks who don’t normally follow Marvel films turned out to see it. “As a scholar, obviously, I wanted to see it,” says Jacqueline

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