10 Things You Need To Know About The Economics Of Black Panther

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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February is usually a slow time of year at the box office. A few years ago, “Deadpool” opened over Presidents Day weekend with $152 million at the domestic box office and folks thought the Earth had tilted on its axis, Wired reported:

Last weekend, “Black Panther” made that look like a half-eaten chimichanga … It is nothing short of a phenomenon.

Crowdfunders bought tickets to “Black Panther” to help kids see heroes who looked like them on the big screen.

Chadwick Boseman plays King T’Challa, ruler of Wakanda, a technologically advanced society. His character conflicts with Michael B. Jordan’s character, Eric Killmonger, who plans to take power. Other stars include Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Daniel Kaluuya. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler.

We’re taking a look at the economics of “Black Panther” and how the numbers are shaping up. This movie is looking more and more like the answer to the question: What do moviegoers actually want?

Economics of Black Panther – could it earn $1 billion?

“Black Panther” is going to earn well over a billion dollars and may do so within a month, writer and activist Shaun King predicted in an essay on Medium. “From a pure business standpoint, it is to film what Michael Jackson’s Thriller was to music,” King wrote.

With $400 million-plus in receipts worldwide so far, the film is firmly on track to make $1 billion, The Economist reported.

Thirty-two films have grossed more than $1 billion — four in 2017 alone: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, “Despicable Me 3”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “The Fate of the Furious”.

The film beat box office expectations on its opening weekend

“Black Panther” is the biggest February movie of all time. It beat expectations to score the fifth biggest North American debut, Forbes reported. It took in $242 million domestically over the four-day President’s Day weekend, Feb. 16-19. This was the second-highest such opening behind only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It’s the biggest ever debut for a black director — “a triumph that could impact onscreen representation,” Forbes reported. Overseas, “Black Panther” took in $184.6 million, disproving “a long-held industry myth that films with black casts underperform overseas.”

The estimated global debut stood at $361 million through Sunday.

The $426 million global earnings mean that “Black Panther” doubled its original tracking in less than a month, according to Variety. The film had been on track on Jan. 25  to bring in between $100-to-$120 million. Then previews brought in $25.2 million — the largest Thursday night preview gross for a February opener and the second-largest for a Marvel film.

“Black Panther” is the fifth movie to make more than $200 million in its opening weekend. It also had the third biggest four-day weekend in history.

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The movie’s success has improved the Q1 outlook for the entire movie industry

In its opening weekend, “Black Panther” was expected to earn $170 million domestically. It ended up taking in $242 million— more than the latest “Star Wars” movie. That’s good news for the movie-theater business, considered to have been in a “slow, secular decline for quite some time,” Business Insider reported. One Wall Street analyst is optimistic about the movie business in 2018, in part because of “Black Panther”:

It’s such good news that RBC analyst Leo Kulp updated his box-office forecast upward, and wrote in a note Thursday that the outlook for the first quarter had “improved dramatically.”

“We had been expecting a 12 percent decline but it looks like 1Q could end up closer to flat,” Kulp wrote. ‘Black Panther’ substantially outperformed our expectations.”

https://twitter.com/MyAfro/status/966361252070006784

The film had a huge budget

Black Panther’s budget was $200 million. An estimated $150 million more was spent on publicity. It’s rare for a Hollywood studio to put this much money behind a film made by and starring people of color, The Ringer reported.

The movie’s $184.6 million overseas earnings already account for 43 percent of its total gross, putting its international performance on track with other Marvel movies which can often double their domestic take overseas, Forbes reported on Feb. 20.

Audience demographics weren’t business as usual for “Black Panther’ opening weekend

African-Americans usually make up 15 percent of superhero movie audiences, but more than twice that many (37 percent) filled “Black Panther” seats over the weekend, according to Moneyish. The “historically diverse” audience was 35-percent Caucasian, 18-percent Hispanic and 45 percent of all ticket buyers were female. Women usually make up 35-to-40 percent of opening weekend sales at superhero films. They were attracted “no doubt … to the mighty warrior women of Wakanda,” Moneyish reported.

Could ‘Black Panther’ help bridge the pay gap for actors of color?

We don’t know what the cast was paid to appear in “Black Panther”, but the success of this Marvel film could give Black actors leverage in negotiations that they didn’t have before, according to Refinery29. “Black Panther” has a mostly Black cast. Movies starring Black actors don’t often get the green light because they are not considered internationally viable. The 2017 Best Picture winner “Moonlight” and three-time Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures” both got great international numbers, proving Hollywood wrong.

“That myth has hurt a lot of product of color, and it’s still a problem with the middle-aged buyers who are the proverbial gatekeepers, who in fact enforce that misperception by not buying content of color,” said attorney Darrell Miller in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

After “Black Panther” opening, is Disney stock a buy?

The strong start to the first quarter is just what Disney needed, Zack’s reported. Disney has seen its Studio Entertainment unit revenues decline in recent quarters.

“Black Panther’s” strong opening weekend could mean good numbers down the road as the film continues to get great reviews like a 96-percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Disney is hoping a string of 2018 hits will follow including “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Avengers: Infinity War”, “The Incredibles 2”, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Fiscal 2017 was rough for Disney’s Studio Entertainment segment after major wins in 2016. Sales fell by 11 percent in 2017 to $8.38 billion.

Disney is currently a Zacks Rank No. 1 (Strong Buy). Disney is expected to see its revenues hit $58.88 billion in 2018 — a 6.8 percent year-over-year jump based on current Zacks consensus estimates. Sales are projected to surge nearly 6 percent this quarter, and earnings to expand by 12 percent. Both could go higher “since ‘Black Panther’ blew past initial box-office estimates,” Zacks reported.

African clothing merchandisers see a sales boom

“Black Panther” is having an unexpected positive impact on small metro Atlanta businesses selling African clothing, NBC 11Alive reported on Feb. 21.

Movie-goers are choosing to dress up in traditional African head wraps, shirts, dresses, and fabrics to watch the film. During Black History Month, store owners said that they usually see an increase in sales but “Black Panther” is bringing in unexpected revenue.

Business is booming at the Cultural Accents store in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points neighborhood and Dupsies in Smyrna, Georgia. The owners of both stores report a 60-to- 80 percent increase in business and they both adjusted their hours of operation. Other African-owned businesses that sell traditional African clothes report a 50 percent increase in foot traffic.

“It’s so beautiful to see everybody coming together to celebrate a culture,” one owner said.

The economics of #OscarsSoWhite

In recent years, movements such as #OscarsSoWhite have focused attention on the lack of Black representation onscreen and behind the camera. Just 13.6 percent of characters of the top-grossing films of 2016 were Black. White characters accounted for 70.8 percent, according to a 2017 study by the USC Annenberg Media, Diversity & Social Change initiative, Forbes reported. That inequality was repeated behind camera, where black directors made up just 5.6 percent of the total. You’ll find more black characters onscreen in movies with a black director, according to the study.

Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, taking ownership of the characters that make Marvel’s Cinematic Universe the highest-grossing franchise of all time. These include the Hulk, Thor, Captain America and now Black Panther.

“The world has embraced ‘Black Panther’, which has obliterated expectations, broken records and shattered myths,” tweeted Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger.

Black Panther is the wealthiest superhero

In July 2015, Time estimated the net worth of comic book heroes Tony Stark (Iron Man), Bruce Wayne (Batman) and T’Challa (Black Panther). Batman was valued at $9.2 billion; Wayne Enterprises at $31.3 billion; Iron Man, $12.4 billion, and Stark Enterprises, $20.3 billion. T’Challa’s net worth wayyyyyy exceeded the rest. The Black Panther’s net worth was estimated at $90.7 trillion. At the time, Vibranium was valued at $10,000 per gram, and T’Challa had been selling about 400 ounces day for about 10 years to build his country’s financial reserves, Buffalo News reported.

economics of 'Black Panther'
Image: Camo-Flauge – DeviantArt

About Dana Sanchez

Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubai Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.