Black Panther's POC Appeal Made it a Blockbuster

Hank Boyd has done his part to push Black Panther past the $1 billion mark at the box office.

Boyd, a marketing professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business has seen the movie three or four times. He’s in his mid 50s—a decade or two above the target demographic for comic book flicks. Nonetheless, he’s a repeat customer. Boyd has taken his kids to Black Panther. He has talked his neighbors into going. Even his parents, who are in their 80s, have gone to see Black Panther.

Boyd is urging his fellow African Americans to experience Black Panther and celebrate its existence. His parents, says Boyd, were born at a time when a majority black cast Hollywood movie like Black Panther didn’t seem possible.

“I do believe projects like this are very important in terms of our long journey toward a more perfect union,” Boyd said. “I feel like an acolyte trying to do my part when I talk to African Americans.”

The Black Panther isn’t a new character. He’s more than half a century old, and “outside of certain circles, was always on Marvel’s B roster.”

Writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Jack Kirby deserve “mad props,” says Boyd, for creating a black male character of African descent in 1966.

“That was amazing, in terms of how bold that was,” Boyd says.

Boyd marvels at the “brilliant” marketing of the movie. It was released in February, just in time not for the summer or Christmas holiday, but for Black History Month.

“The launch pad for this film was always going to be the African-American community,” Boyd said. “They knew that if the film created enough of a buzz with the African-American community, it would draw in all kinds of folks.”

Sure enough, an analysis by ComScore showed the audience demographic for Black Panther was 37 percent black and 35 percent white during the film’s opening weekend. The Motion Picture Association of America reported that in 2016, the average movie audience was about 15 percent black—less than a third of the average Black Panther’s audience.

“If you are very selective about your target market, and you have a great product, and you win over that target audience, they will tell other people,” Boyd said. “They become your acolytes. And that’s what happened here.”

Boyd sees Black Panther as a “clarion call” to the Hollywood establishment to step out of its comfort zone and think about what else is possible down the line in terms of the superhero ethnicity.

“Think about Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans,” Boyd said.