Inside 'Black Panther's' Emotional Impact in Hollywood

The likes of Issa Rae and Brandon Easton celebrated Ryan Coogler's superhero film over Presidents Day weekend.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Panther broke records at the box office over the Presidents Day weekend, solidifying its place as a legit critical and commercial blockbuster. It's also become quite a social phenomenon, as screenings in Los Angeles have turned into industry meeting places for writers, directors and actors celebrating Ryan Coogler's achievement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong'o. 

On opening night, ArcLight Hollywood hosted Black Panther showings in every theater, and it was in the Cinerama Dome where a large group of black writers and showrunners gathered to see the movie together. More than 30 men attended an 8 p.m. showing, in an outing organized by S.W.A.T. showrunner Aaron Rahsaan Thomas and Luke Cage executive producer Charles Murray and attended by Mudbound Oscar nominee Virgil Williams, The Flash co-executive producer Deric A. Hughes and American Crime writer Kirk Moore.

Agent Carter writer Brandon Easton (just announced as the scribe of Vampire Hunter D) was also in the group and tells The Hollywood Reporter that after the showing, the group gathered with dozens of audience members (some dressed as Wakandans) in the lobby where they cheered, danced and delivered an opening night unlike anything he'd ever experienced.

"All superhero movies are about big moments — character moments and action moments. But this movie takes on issues like post-colonialism and the economic fallout of the slave trade, and everybody vibed on it. It was such a strong, positive experience," he says.

Also present: Castle Rock writer Marc Bernardin, who says: "Almost every black writer I know was at the ArcLight. Each of us has had to suppress some element of ourselves to make our way in Hollywood. And here was Black Panther, which embraced everything about our culture — and made it all so undeniable. And we were all there, together, to see it. Was a hell of a night."

Ladies turned out in full force, too, as Issa Rae caught multiple showings, including one at an iPic theater in that was rented out by colleagues. Also, Disney's next big hope at the box-office comes from Wrinkle in Time helmer Ava DuVernay who tweeted that she's been paying close attention to the cultural phenom.

"I've loved the Black Panther reaction videos, read the reviews/think pieces, swooned over folks lining theaters, tried to teach myself Panther flash mob dance moves, admired all the African threads," she tweeted. "But this. This broke me. Our babies. Our young ones. Imagine the seeds planted…" The words were accompanied by a photo of two young girls dressed in Black Panther garb wearing 3-D glasses at an undisclosed showing. 

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.