Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is reportedly on track to sell the highest number of pre-sale tickets ever for a Marvel feature. How is this possible? Well, it's simple: Businesses, churches, student groups, sororities, fraternities and even family groups are buying out thousands of theater seats and attended en masse, together.
The #BlackPantherChallenge, now a very popular hashtag, kicked off in Harlem when Frederick Joseph started a GoFundMe with the intent of taking all the kids from the neighborhood Boys & Girls Club to see a movie directed by black man, starring a mostly black cast, featuring black women with natural hair and showcasing a black superhero as a lead character in a big budget Marvel movie. Some $400,000 later, the movement has spread well beyond New York City.
In Chicago, local businessman Rodger Jackson and his partners, who produce the Web series "No Chiraq" and own a streaming platform service named The-I, decided to rent out a theater or two and give the tickets to local not profits including groups like My Block, My Hood, My City.
"I said, you know, we could just go ahead and buy a small theater," says Jackson. "We’ll just find some nonprofits to give it to. That’s all it was."
Some 300 tickets later, Jackson and his partners are contemplating buying yet more theaters.
"Once I posted about it [to social media] my inbox started blowing up," he says. "We just want to get as many kids as we could to see Black Panther."
Jackson is not alone. Top Teens, a youth group in Chicago, is doing the same. And at least one megachurch in that Midwest city is bringing congregants to a local theater to watch the film together and then to have a discussion about it later. Lead by Pastor Otis Moss III, members of Trinity United Church of Christ plan to attend the film in groups of 150-300. Though they aren't directly part of the #BlackPantherChallenge, their intent is largely the same. The church has bought out at least seven screenings at a local Studio Movie Grill theater located in a neighborhood on the city's South Side.
African drummers, a step and repeat and African dress will take over the theater as congregants literally live out their fashion-forward vision of #WakandaForever before they view the movie as a church family. It's this kind of unwavering support of black film, and religious film, that is leading the charge for the movie's pre-sales. And, it doesn't hurt that the pastor is a comic book collector who very nearly went to grad school for film.