‘Black Panther’ a powerful force at box office everywhere, including Africa

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BY RYAN FAUGHNDER
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

“Black Panther’’ is making
history in the U.S. and
internationally.
Marvel Studios and Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster superhero movie “Black Panther” has become a legitimate global juggernaut, grossing a jaw-dropping $427 million in global ticket sales and defying movie business assumptions.

It’s also showing strength in the continent where the film mostly takes place – Africa.

Released by Walt Disney Co., “Black Panther” scored the largest box office debuts ever in West Africa and East Africa, generating about $400,000 and $300,000, respectively.

In South Africa, “Black Panther” had the third-highest opening ($1.4 million), coming in behind the two most recent “Fast and Furious” movies. Big-screen company Imax Corp. said its theaters in Kenya and Nigeria had their biggest results ever this weekend.

Fictional Wakanda
The $200-million film, starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular comic book hero, is benefiting from its overwhelmingly positive representation of Africa and Pan-African cultures, analysts said.

Hollywood movies set in Africa often depict the continent as a war-torn environment filled with poverty and suffering.

The film’s release also comes less than two months after President Trump was quoted using vulgar language to disparage immigrants from African countries.

“Black Panther” centers on a fictional African nation of Wakanda, which outsiders wrongly believe to be an impoverished country but is a staggeringly wealthy society with the most advanced technology in the world.

Tiny market
“Black Panther,” which also features Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and a breakout performance by Letitia Wright, is the first global superhero blockbuster with a mostly Black cast and a Black director.

“It’s a positive representation of Africa, and we normally don’t see portrayals like that,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at box office data firm ComScore. “‘Black Panther’ is so important because it’s obliterating these stereotypes.”

Africa remains a tiny market for films, compared to other parts of the world, and the African grosses for “Black Panther” are a blip in the movie’s overall total, accounting for less than $3 million in ticket sales for opening weekend.

West Africa, a region that includes Nigeria and Ghana, had 32 theaters in 2016, according to data from the National Association of Theatre Owners. Major international theater chains lack a presence there.

Massive rollout
By contrast, in the United States and Canada alone, “Black Panther” collected about $202 million in its first three days, representing the second-largest debut ever for a Marvel Studios film.

Its massive rollout continued during the Presidents Day holiday, with $40.2 million in the U.S. and Canada, marking the biggest Monday result ever, not adjusted for inflation. Domestically, it has grossed $242 million.

Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment, said “Black Panther” could help expand the film market in Africa, and elsewhere.

“It’s brought in people who traditionally haven’t gone to movies, because there’s a message in ‘Black Panther’ that says this is a movie to support,” Foster said.

In Poland, Portugal
Foster said the film posted big numbers in unexpected countries, including Poland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Israel and Pakistan.

The largest international box-office results for “Black Panther,” so far, came from South Korea, which generated $27.1 million in box office receipts for the film.

The industry is still waiting to see how it does in some of the world’s largest box office markets. “Black Panther” opens in Russia next weekend, followed by Japan and China, the world’s second-largest country for movies, in March.

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