“Black Panther” dramatically changed the make-up of the superhero movie audience this weekend

A group of students from the Capital Preparatory Harlem School watch a screening of the film “Black Panther” on its opening night.
A group of students from the Capital Preparatory Harlem School watch a screening of the film “Black Panther” on its opening night.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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Black Panther stormed the box office this week, raking in $192 million by Sunday (Feb. 19) in North America, according to Box Office Mojo. That marked the fifth-highest opening weekend ever for a film, and the second-highest weekend opening for a Marvel film.

It’s not surprising to see another yet another superhero movie win over moviegoers. But turnout for Black Panther—which subverted the typical composition of a blockbuster cast—also subverted movie-going demographics quite significantly. According to data (.pdf, pg 18) from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Caucasians typically made up slightly over 50% of all movie ticket sales in 2016, while African-Americans made up 15%, and Hispanics made up 21%.

The Hollywood Reporter cites data from comScore showing that 37 percent of ticket buyers for Black Panther in North America this weekend were African-American. Caucasians made up 35% of the audience, while Hispanics made up 18%. That’s very different from the demographic makeup for most superhero movies, the publication adds, which, similar to overall numbers, tend to draw in audiences that are 15% African-American.

Meanwhile, adds Hollywood Reporter, women made up 40% of Black Panther’s audience—about 35% to 40% women is typical for superhero films on their opening weekend, it said.

Outside North America, Black Panther generated $169 million in ticket sales, or 46.8% of its total gross, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a slightly lower percentage than other superhero titles’ overseas opening weekend gross as a percentage of their worldwide total. The title ranks in the 25th spot on the list of top-grossing opening weekends outside North America. It has yet to be released in Russia, Japan, and China—the latter two countries are among the most lucrative non-North American markets for Hollywood.

The film’s early success comes on the heels of Get Out, a film that satirized race relations in the United States. Last year the horror-comedy became the highest-grossing film by a first-time filmmaker and generated worldwide revenues of $255 million on a budget of about $4 million. Together, the strong ticket sales and critical acclaim for both Get Out and Black Panther come as moviegoers rally for more racially diverse casts in mainstream films. Black Panther’s cast is almost entirely African-American, and also has a substantial number of female characters.