BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER less than five weeks in South African cinemas, the superhero hit, Black Panther, has become the all-time top-grossing film in this country, having raked in more than R77.6 million since its release on February 16.
The film, which is now also the highest grossing movie ever in East Africa and West Africa, is also on record as the 33rd film to pass the $1billion mark at the global box-office, taking just 24 days to do so.
“We are thrilled at the response Black Panther has received from fans across the continent as this next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe plays out with a distinctly proud African story,” says Christine Service, senior vice president of The Walt Disney Company Africa, which provided the news of the South African box-office achievement.
“To everyone who celebrated the release by watching, dressing up, singing in the cinemas and enjoying the film across social media, a very big thank you from all of us at Disney and Marvel Studios,” she adds.
The film shone globally from its opening weekend. It became the first title in the Marvel movies line-up to have its opening weekend US box-office surpass its production cost, reports Internet Movie Data Base.
Black Panther, which has highlighted the global need for black heroes, cost $200million to make, and reportedly its Thursday night, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday opening weekend US box office was $202million.
It is recorded as the fifth Marvel movie to make $1billion at the box-office, The Avengers being the first, Iron Man 3 the second, Avengers: Age of Ultron the third, and Captain America: Civil War the fourth.
This past weekend Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava du Vernay, the first African American woman to direct a film with a $100 million-plus budget, dominated the US box office at No 1 and No 2, respectively.
The first big-budget superhero movie that features a black cast, Black Panther sets its story in an African locale, and tackles the themes of black identity. The film takes much inspiration from African cultures.
lack Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king – and Black Panther – is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.
Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, and also features Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.
High praise from critics and positive word of mouth have helped to sustain the buzz around Black Panther, which ignited oscial media ahead of its premiere.
The feeling is that this bodes well for South Africa’s first western with a black cast, Five Fingers for Marseilles, which opens in South Africa on April 6.
“If there was any doubt that this is what audiences are demanding, the box-office figures make it clear: Black Panther surpassed $100 million in its second weekend in US theatres, becoming only the fourth movie to achieve this feat,” said a spokesman for Five Fingers for Marseilles.
In a press release, Vuyo Dabula, who stars in the film with as an outlaw who returns home after 20 years, says: “The cinematic and narrative vision of Five Fingers for Marseilles effortlessly crosses over the threshold of a bright and bold future for film-making in Africa.
“Given the global conversation on race, it is more important than ever for the film industry to tell stories that are rooted in the culture of people of colour, something which the industry as a whole has neglected to do.
“Black South African kids need to see people who look like them on screen. Our audiences need to see stories about strong, brave, heroic black characters. Five Fingers is a powerful African story introducing a new type of African hero.”
The film has had a warm reception at festivals around the world. It was described by one US reviewer as one of the most striking debuts of recent years, and named as part of “a wave that will completely redefine the international perception of what African cinema can be”.
“With all the buzz around this particular African film, we are incredibly excited about releasing Five Fingers for Marseilles, says writer Sean Drummond.
“The characters are tough, complex and proud. Predominantly in Sesotho, it’s a Western-inspired tale of an outlaw who returns home after years on the run, and finds a chance for redemption.
“ It challenges stereotypes and features powerful black heroes against the backdrop of a stunning African landscape.” added director Michael Matthews.
The cast includes Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Aubrey Poolo, Lizwi Vilakazi, Warren Masemola, Dean Fourie, Anthony Oseyemi, Brendon Daniels and Jerry Mofokeng.
Five Fingers for Marseilles was awarded the prize for Best South African Film in Development at the Durban FilmMart’s finance forum in 2013.