Wonder Woman and Black Panther's Success Has Theatre Owners Asking For More Diverse Blockbusters

Genre films still have a long way to go when it comes to representing people beyond the straight, white, male audience Hollywood has long catered to. But two superheroic events recently have more than just fans excited for more diverse offerings - theatre owners are psyched, too.

Gal Gadot readies for battle in Wonder Woman, while Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa and Letitia Wright's Shuri discuss tech in Black Panther. Image: Warner Bros. and Walt Disney

Speaking to Variety, John Fithian, head of the US National Association of Theatre Owners, says the success of films such as Wonder Woman (which carved a path through box office records for female-led and female-directed movies last year) and Black Panther (which is currently reigning over the box office in a tour de force only rivalled by Star Wars: The Force Awakens in recent years) defies two major Hollywood beliefs. One, that big movies can only come out in the summer (winter in Australia) or the run-up to Christmas, and two, that there isn't money in mainstream movie fare that appeals to a much broader audience than the typically expected:

Theatre 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.

We want these movies to set a precedent and not be one-offs that people forget about. We'd like to see this more and more and more. There should be a Latino superhero movie or an Asian superhero movie. The more you have different types of people in these movies, the more you appeal to different types of audiences.

Of course, as head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, Fithian's comments are financially driven - movies that speak to more audiences, particularly underrepresented audiences, mean more money being spent at theatres by a wider range of people. But a box office that also reflects the diversity of the audience that is seeing these movies is an important one beyond just monetary gain. Representation matters, and letting people from all walks of life see themselves on the big screen is as vital as it is good business for theatres.



    Speaking as a straight white male: hell yeah bring on more diverse movies!
    Because films with a mostly white cast set in the USA commit the greatest sin of all: they are generic and boring.
    Gimme some Latino superheros or a south Korean spy film, that'd be sic.

      An Eskimo saving the world from an alien invasion. Mongolian rapper making his dreams come true after going triple platinum. A girl from Peru goes on a journey to rescue her kidnapped Llama pet.

      I’d watch them all.

        They probably already exist, they're just not made by Hollywood.

    Despite it being a (bastardized) quote from a mostly white film.
    "If you built it they will come"

      “Build”. That’s mixing past and future tense?

        shouldnt go on kotaku while sleepy.

    Personally I couldn't care less about diversity etc. Just make a good film and people won't care about race/gender. The reason they succeeded is because they were great films. Dark Tower had a black lead and it sucked, no actor could've made that film good

      yeah, i didnt go and watch Black Panther because the film's cast was black, i saw it because it looked fucking awesome and that i loved black panther's character in civil war

      I think the point is, it was a good film and people cared about representation, enough to make folks sit up and take notice for monetary reasons anyway.
      It's kinda speaks for itself that the film is getting good reviews as a film and a lot of African Americans are loving the positive representation.

      Thor Ragnarok was an awesome film regardless, but as a Kiwi and a Maori myself, It's hard not to be proud of the mainstream attention around the film.

        Im from Nz originally and man that film was fantastic, almost as good as showing Chardonnay my Michael Jackson dance moves

        I loved Taika Waititi's role as Korg, it nearly stole the film for me. The NZ accent was instantly identifiable (at least, to an Aussie), and just helped sell the movie. Can understand feeling a bit of pride for that, the representation was simple but very effective.

        I'd love to see a series of shorts with Korg and Miek roaming the galaxy looking for a new place to live.

          Oh man, some Korg shorts would be amazing.

          It's certainly a unique film in the Marvel film universe, all the actors have raved about how much fun they had making it and it really showed in the result.

      Man Dark Tower was a let down even though it had two fantastic actors leading it.

      A lot of the issue us that the stories are all getting samey. A white guy writes a movie and then a white guy directs a white guy as the lead and then a white guy edits it while another white guy does the score. It's not that any or all of them aren't talented, it's that people can only do what they know.

      The life experience of people from different backgrounds can lead to weird and exciting new stories, perspectives, and artistic expressions. People don't want diversity just because. they want it because they either want to see things that show their own life experience, or (often in the case of white people like me) because they want to see something new that doesn't.

      It's kind of the good version of a slippery slope. Adding new voices is going to mean shit gets weird and that'll bring in new voices and then we might even end up with a film and TV renaissance.

    Read the first sentence of this article and passed out from my eyes rolling to the back of my head.

    What nonsense.

    Good films are popular. Majority couldn't care less about skin colour. More news at 11.

      Yeah, I find the entire assertion - that these movies are doing well because they star women or black people or whatever - to be bizarre. It seems to suggest that women won't go to watch other superhero movies because they were about men? Or black people won't go to watch other superhero movies because they were about white people? That sounds like garbage to me. If it's a good movie, people will go watch it, it it's not then they won't.

      Compare the box office of Justice League to Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was in both, but the Wonder Woman movie made about $200m more for the simple reason that it was a better movie, not because it had some strong female character that wasn't present in Justice League.

        Agreed. The whole need-more-diversity shtick didn't work for Marvel Comics because the stories being told were more concerned with diversity than the actual plot. And WW and BP weren't successful because of diversity but because they actually entertained the audience rather than focus too much on the fact that one's protagonist was a woman and that the other had a nearly-entirely black cast, which is a result of the film's setting being rural Africa.

        Apart from being good movies, it doesn't take a genius to realise they interest a larger demographic, particularly those that have been under-represented in the past.

    Don't get the hype for WW. BP was awesome but I found WW to be rather average. Sure it was better than SS or BvS but that's a pretty low bar!

    But what about poor blade.


        wasnt that passenger 57?

          Fair point, but I'm not sure if Blade really had any particularly cool one-liners in any of his movies? They can't have been that memorable, because I can't remember any of them :P

          It was. I just like Wesley Snipes and needed to say it.

    Creed was awesome, as was Black Panther. Get some Michael B Jordan in your film.

      You mean like Fantastic Four did?

        An ensemble of the world's greatest actors couldn't have saved that trainwreck.

          Not even some Jeff Goldblum?

            Not even sexy Jeff Goldblum from that movie where he was the devil.

              Fair call.

              Personally, I didn't actually hate the Fantastic Four reboot myself. It was a trainwreck, no doubt, but that was script, not acting. I thought the cast did as good a job as they could with what was put in front of them. Even the effects weren't BAD, just misused.

              Terribly misued.

    Black Panther was one of my favourite characters in Captain America: Civil War. He was a total bad arse and when suited up, he looked and sounded quite intimidating. He also had an aura of mystery and intrigue - since I know almost next to nothing about the character, I wanted to learn more about him.

    I think as a film, Black Panther is a good step in the right direction for Hollywood films. It primarily features a cast of African descent and also showcases strong, female characters. While Wakanda is fictional, it was cool to see a culture that isn't so Westernised or cliche. I think Hollywood honestly does need more of that representation.

    As an actual film, and as a story overall, I was a bit disappointed by Black Panther. Maybe I hyped it up too much in my head because man, I was pretty excited, but I didn't really like the story all too much (it was okay, but it didn't blow my mind). The film was incredibly CGI heavy and yeah, I know all Marvel movies are, but in Black Panther, the CGI just didn't right with me, particularly the final battle.

    Wonder Woman is a similar case. I enjoyed Wonder Woman for the most part and honestly, it's probably the recent DCU's best film, but a lot of the CGI threw me off and I found the editing (especially at the finale) to be disjointed, or at least, it was for me. On the plus side, the film had some witty humour and Gal Gadot was the absolutely perfect choice to be Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.

    What makes me laugh is that you can never make people happy, it's as if we feel entitled to always complain about something. For example, people disliked the choice of Gal Gadot due to her past career as a model, yet they weren't aware she served in the Israeli army for two years as a hand to hand combat instructor.

    Then, for those who are aware of Gal Gadot's military background, try to complain that she apparently hasn't seen combat and therefore, isn't tough. Typically, these kind of comments (from what I see on social media) come from fat, white men who are essentially armchair experts on the military.

    "It's not the race or the sex of the actors in a movie, it's the quality of the movie that matters."

    "There should be a Latino superhero movie or an Asian superhero movie. The more you have different types of people in these movies, the more you appeal to different types of audiences."

    LOL make up your damn mind already which one you want

    I mean American studios make films for what they believe is their main demographic; American people. Japanese studios make films for what they believe their main demographic: Japanese. I think that whenever they adapt a book/comic/musical they should just do it accurately rather than changing race/location/motivation. America screwed up Ghost in the Shell and Japan screwed up Full Metal Alchemist. This issue doesn't solely rest on America but they are the biggest contributors of poor decision making.

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