Over the last few years, a lot of pernicious Hollywood myths about what movies are “marketable” have been shattered. Old excuses about how blockbusters featuring actors of color don’t appeal to worldwide audiences have been swept away by the success of franchises like the Fast & Furious series and the Star Wars sequels. Time and again, American audiences have responded to films with black leads like Hidden Figures, Get Out, and Girls Trip, all of them turning huge profits on smaller budgets. Even within this context, though, the box-office success of Black Panther this past weekend was basically unprecedented, and it’s one that could dictate where studios direct their energies in the future.
Over the four-day President’s Day weekend, Black Panther made $242 million at the domestic box office, far outstripping the previous record for the holiday set by Deadpool in 2016 (it made $152 million). The only movie to ever make more money in its first four days is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ryan Coogler’s film, the 18th entry in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, has already beat the final domestic grosses of six other movies in that superhero saga (including Doctor Strange, the first two Thor films, and the first Captain America). Usually, it’s the sequels and team-up movies that do best financially in the Marvel world, with the launch of a new hero carrying a little more risk. But that hasn’t stopped Black Panther, which may go on to be the biggest hit of the year—a prospect unheard of for a film released in the doldrums of February.