Oakland-directed 'Black Panther' a financial and cultural hit

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Global ticket sales for the Oakland-created "Black Panther" are expected  total $387 million by Monday, according to comScore, breaking financial records and solidifying its place in black cultural history.

In North America alone, Disney, which supported “Black Panther” with a lavish nine-month marketing campaign, said on Sunday that ticket sales for the film in North America will total roughly $218 million between Friday and Monday. Final numbers will be released Tuesday.

The Marvel film from the Walt Disney Co. blew past expectations to become the fifth-highest-grossing debut ever, not adjusting for inflation, following only "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," ''Star Wars: The Last Jedi," ''Jurassic World" and "The Avengers."

"All hail the King of Wakanda!" Disney declared, referring to the movie's mythical and highly advanced African nation.

"This is the very definition of a blockbuster: People lining up around the block to see a great movie," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "A movie like 'Black Panther' is a cultural event that nothing on the small screen can really match in that way."

That "Black Panther" feeling was evident in Oakland, especially at the Grand Lake Theater, where Oakland-raised director Ryan Coogler showed up last week to tout the opening of the movie. All throughout the weekend, movie goers showed up in droves, dressed in African garb and some in Marvel-hero costumes. Some of the movie is even set in Oakland, although it was technically filmed in Atlanta.  Mayor Libby Schaaf was invited to the debut of the film and tweeted she was "honored" to meet Coogler's parents and siblings. 

Other movie theaters were showing the film too, and the cultural pride was evident everything.

"It's a day of joy and celebration and just pure excitement," said Lauren Bartlett on the movie's opening day. "You feel proud when you see a cast of people that look like you."

Tanara Haynes, of the African-American Female Experience, said, "It really captures the spirit of the African people. And it means we get to see something different than we're used to seeing." 

Coogler's film, which cost about $200 million to make, is the most expensive movie with a largely black ensemble and among the few to be centered on a black superhero. The strong opening suggests "Black Panther" will easily set a box-office record for films directed by a black filmmaker. Coogler's first feature length film was Fruitvale Station, the story of how Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a BART police officer in 2009.

Coogler was born in Oakland and he moved to Richmond when he was 8. He attended St. Mary's College of California in Berkeley, where an English professor encouraged him to pursue a career in screenwriting. He transferred to Sacramento State, where he played football, and then finally to the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He said that his father used to take him to movies at the Grand Lake Theater when he was a kid. 

The movie has been hugely acclaimed, with a 97 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences agreed, giving it an A-plus CinemaScore. The film especially resonated among African-Americans, who made up 37 percent of moviegoers, according to comScore.

Dave Hollis, distribution chief for Disney, called the film's success "a real source of pride" for Disney.

"Inclusion and representation matters," Hollis said. "We know that great stories can come from anywhere, and our goal is to make films that reflect the wonderful diversity of our world and resonate with audiences everywhere - no matter who they are, no matter where they come from."

Coming at one of the slower periods of the year, "Black Panther" benefited from little competition, and it can be expected to dominate the marketplace for weeks.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.