Colorado musician and actress Such, left, has rented out a trio of Alamo Drafthouse theaters to screen MarvelÕs latest action flick, ÒThe Black Panther,Ó on Feb. 15, 2018 in Denver. Black Panther” cast member and stuntwoman Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, right, along with Such were at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake location to talk to media about the film that has the highest pre-sales of any superhero movie in history.
“The Black Panther,” Marvel’s new, $200 million action flick whose title character is America’s best-known black superhero, is landing on 4,000 screens nationally this week during a cultural moment of its own making.
“It’s perfect with it coming out during Black History Month, and it’s the perfect counter-programming to (President Donald) Trump’s whole (expletive) countries comment about immigrants,” said Denver soul singer and actress SuCh, who rented out three theaters at metro-area Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations to screen the film. “I’m Haitian-American and my parents migrated here from Haiti, so it really resonates with me.”
While many conservatives have decried the film as social-justice propaganda, and alt-right trolls have attempted to tank its online ratings, a loose coalition of artists, church leaders and educators are seizing it as rallying cry for racial justice in the age of renewed public racism.
“Some folks are uncomfortable having that conversation because they don’t want to see us as divided,” said state Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver, who partnered with Denver Public Schools board member Jennifer Bacon to sponsor screenings in northeast Denver. “The goal is to have conversations with students about the real Black Panther party and its history in the Civil Rights Movement.”
More than a half-dozen film-related events will be hosted in Denver, Aurora and Littleton in the next week, with the goal of throwing financial support behind the movie’s opening — predicted to break February box-office records with a $180 million weekend showing — while teaching minority students that big-screen heroes can look like them, too.
The pre-release hype hit a fever pitch this week, with The New York Times calling it “a defining moment for Black America” and the Kansas City Star dubbing it “an unofficial black holiday.” More than three-quarters of black Americans already plan to see the film, according to a YouGov survey, and Fandango pre-sales have outpaced all other superhero movies, Screen Rant reported, beating 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” whose debut earned $166 million domestically.
“The idea that pop culture and comics can be used to bring together diverse people is something we’re very much interested in promoting,” said Tara Hubner, marketing manager for Pop Culture Classroom, the educational nonprofit that runs the Denver Comic Con. “It’s there in our mission.”
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 15: Colorado musician and actress Such, left, has rented out a trio of Alamo Drafthouse theaters to screen MarvelÕs latest action flick, ÒThe Black Panther,Ó on February 15, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Black Panther” cast member and stuntwoman Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, right, along with Such were at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake location to talk to media about the film that has the highest pre-sales of any superhero movie in history. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)Pop Culture Classroom chose “The Black Panther” for its February Film Geeks Assemble program, with preview screenings Thursday at the Littleton and Sloan’s Lake Alamo Drafthouses. Bacon, the DPS District 4 director, has coordinated with black student union groups at northeast Denver schools to schedule screenings at the Northfield Stapleton Harkins, and people such as Denver singer SuCh and state Rep. Coleman have chipped in their own cash so kids can see the movie either at a steep discount or for free.
“We’ve found sponsors and donors who recognize the importance of this moment for students of color,” said Bacon, who noted Green Valley Ranch High School, STRIVE Prep, KIPP charter schools, and Athletics & Beyond as participating organizations. “It’s something that can inspire strength and creativity in black children, and some student groups are using it as a fundraiser. But even more important, it’s fun.”
Based on the comic-book character first introduced in 1966 — the same year the real Black Panther Party was founded — “The Black Panther” tells the story of T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), a prince from the secretive, fictional African nation of Wakanda. The movie’s budget and marketing push is unprecedented for a production with a mostly black cast and crew. And it’s similarly uncharted territory for Marvel owner Disney — which has raked in about $12 billion over the past decade through its comic-book films alone.
“It humanizes different aspects of traditional black culture,” said R. Alan Brooks, a Denver-based comics writer and podcaster. “And art is important in that regard, because to me, the root of so many -isms — racism, sexism, ageism — is a failure to see someone else’s humanity. This movie is something that needs to happen.”
However, online campaigns have mobilized in recent weeks to sink the Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database Ratings of the film, which are vulnerable to user-generated manipulation. Earlier this month, Facebook cracked down on an alt-right group called Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and Its Fanboys by taking the unusual step of deactivating their “Black Panther”-hating page, while some Twitter users have advocated for in-theater protests against what they see as liberal Hollywood propaganda.
That won’t matter once the film is released, said SuCh, who plans to show “The Black Panther” to her 7-year-old son and has brought in cast member and stuntwoman Janeshia Adams-Ginyard as a special treat for her guests. To her, “The Black Panther” is as significant for African-Americans as “Wonder Woman” was for women.
“You shouldn’t underestimate the power of representation,” said SuCh, who sold more than 200 discounted tickets to her screenings after adding theaters due to demand. She has spent about $5,000 of her own money renting them out, and she doesn’t care if she takes a loss on it. “I just want to see it with people who are as pumped up as me about it, whatever they look like.”