Black Panther Success Has Theater Owners Demanding More Diversity



The success of both Marvel’s Black Panther and Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman has lead to theater owners starting a push for superhero diversity in Hollywood. John Fithian, the head of the National Theater Owners Association (NATO) reveals in a new interview that theater owners have been pushing for more diversity for quite some time now, and now with Black Panther and Wonder Woman both greatly exceeding their box office expectations throughout their theatrical run, it may be the right time to introduce more diverse heroes. Here’s what Fithian had to say in a recent interview, stating that owners also want more diversity in terms of spreading out the release dates, since Black Panther is easily on track to earn $1 billion worldwide, despite debuting in February.

Theater owners have been asking for more diversity in movies for a long time, and by diversity we mean diversity in casting and diversity in times of the year when movies are released. The traditional norm is that big movies only go in the summer and winter holiday. Black Panther proves if you’re good, people will come out and see you any time of the year. It also shows that a movie with an all-black cast and a black director can break records. It’s not the race or the sex of the actors in a movie, it’s the quality of the movie that matters.”

While Wonder Woman helped shatter the long-standing box office myth that young male audiences won’t flock to a female-lead superhero or action movie, Black Panther helped dispel the notion that movies featuring an all-black cast don’t fare well overseas. As of now, Black Panther has taken in just over $400M domestic, but it has also fared well overseas, pulling in $304M for a global total of $704M in its theatrical release thus far. While Disney is continuing its push for diversity with next month’s A Wrinkle In Time, which is the first movie budgeted at over $100M to be directed by a black female filmmaker (Ava DuVernay), the impending Disney/Fox merger could actually limit the number of movies released by both studios.

“The Disney Fox acquisition certainly raises the question of product supply, because Disney has a model of making huge global blockbusters only, and Fox has a more diverse model of making global blockbusters, mid-budget movies, and smaller Fox Searchlight titles that do well and get awards. Exhibitors need all of those types of movies. If you look at the breakdown of the top movies of the last five years, we have more global blockbusters than ever before and a good, steady stream of independent, intelligent, award-worthy movies, but we don’t have as many mid-budget movies. That’s what I’d like to see change.”

The Disney Fox merger likely won’t be approved until 2019, although after it’s complete, Disney is expected to make a wide “range” of different movies. NATO also plans to push other studios to ramp up production on mid-range budget movies, to balance out the dearth of superhero movies and other big-budget tentpoles. You can head on over to Variety for their full report.



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