“It’s a cultural moment,” said Fandango’s Chris Witherspoon, who sees the story of a heroic king and his wealthy, futuristic African nation as a new moment for Hollywood.
“This film is unlike any superhero film that we’ve ever seen. It’s a diverse story, it is long overdue, and there’s this social media movement that’s happening that I think is galvanizing ticket sales like we never have seen before,” Witherspoon added.
That includes the “Black Panther Challenge,” a viral online fundraising effort that started with plans to help kids in Harlem see the movie. With a nudge from Ellen DeGeneres, it’s mushroomed to include more than 300 fundraisers poised to send tens of thousands of young fans to the theater.
“I think there’s going to be a 5-year-old kid who walks into the theater and says, ‘Wow, I can be T’Challa, I can be Shuri, I can be Okoye, I can be all these different wonderful characters that you see in this film,'” said Jamil Smith, who profiled director Ryan Coogler for a Time magazine cover story.
Critics are also adding to the hype with an almost unheard of 99 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes, a website that averages movie reviews.
“This is a story that is not only interesting and compelling and well told, it’s also fun, you know what I mean? And that’s the thing that people may get lost with all the sort of, you know, preoccupation with politics and race,” Smith said.
All the buzz is already stoking speculation that a sequel could be on the way.
“Black Panther” won’t hit theaters until next Friday.