Black Panther has been dominating box offices for four weeks straight, and there's no question that it's still a pop culture phenomenon. This weekend, in fact, came the incredible news that the latest Marvel movie — the first ever by a Black director, Ryan Coogler, and starring a nearly all-Black cast — has officially grossed $1 billion. It only further hammers home for Hollywood just how necessary representation is on the big screen.
Also great news was that this weekend, A Wrinkle In Time hit theaters, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring a multicultural cast with names from Oprah Winfrey and 14-year-old lead Storm Reid to Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon. The movie is historic in its own right, with DuVernay holding the title of the first Black female director to helm a $100 million movie, and a young Black girl, Reid, portraying a book character that has typically been depicted as white.
Yes, this weekend was a win for both movies. A Wrinkle In Time debuted with a solid $33 million opening weekend, though Black Panther maintained its box office dominance for the fourth weekend in a row and remained in the number-one spot. Unsurprisingly, however, that narrative quickly became about a competition between the two films. Fox News' headline was "Oprah's A Wrinkle In Time stumbles at the box office as Black Panther soars." The Hollywood Reporter tweeted, "Weekend box office: #WrinkleInTime limps toward $33M debut; #BlackPanther stays no. 1," and the Los Angeles Times wrote: "A Wrinkle in Time fails to best Black Panther in box office showdown."
But there should have never been a "showdown" between A Wrinkle In Time and Black Panther, though I had predicted this dynamic might happen based on the fact that Black Panther took over the zeitgeist in such a full-force way, setting expectations high for Wrinkle. There were hardly any negative reviews of Black Panther, tickets are still sold out everywhere, and it was a major first moment for representation. A Wrinkle In Time, meanwhile, started to receive some less-than-stellar reactions after its Los Angeles premiere, and the mixed reviews have only continued. Still, both BP and AWIT are major movies with Black directors and multicultural casts, which we know all too well is a rarity. And it is only natural to compare two big budget movies, particularly given that both of these movies present so many firsts for inclusivity, a sad fact given that it's 2018.
But then again, we don't constantly pit movies with white casts and white directors against one another. For instance, when Captain America: Civil War — then another Marvel box office record breaker — maintained its top box office spot in 2016, Variety reported at the time that the debut of George Clooney and Julia Roberts' Money Monster had a "respectable" $15 million debut. There was no mention of a "battle," or Money Monster "limping." And last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the box office was "booming" thanks to Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok and its second weekend at the box office, plus the $30 million debut of Daddy's Home 2 in the second box office spot.
Plus, despite their big budgets and similarities when it comes to shattering Hollywood's glass ceilings, BP versus AWIT is indeed like comparing apples and oranges. Black Panther is a Marvel comic book superhero movie aimed at audiences of all ages; A Wrinkle In Time is a fantastical live action Disney film based on a young adult novel that itself always received mixed reactions. Yet simply because the existence of films this diverse are so rare, they're in the same category. But historically, films by white directors, or male directors, or featuring less-than-diverse casts have been allowed have "solid" box office debuts, or receive "mixed" reviews. Why can't A Wrinkle In Time be allowed the same leeway?
It's unfair for A Wrinkle In Time's moment to be overshadowed by the success of Black Panther. Yes, Black Panther has been, hands down, one of the most culturally significant and buzzed about movie events in recent memory. And they are both Disney movies, so perhaps Disney is to blame for releasing two of its biggest films of the year so close to one another, which the studio should have anticipated meaning box office competition. Still, Panther's success shouldn't take away from the many ways that A Wrinkle In Time is also making history, and the impact that it still can and will have, in addition to its message — which we all need right now — about the power of light in darkness. And then there's the simple fact that it's directed by Ava DuVernay during a time when both Black directors and female directors are still struggling. So A Wrinkle In Time isn't just inspiring young Black girls — and girls of all races — to believe in themselves; it might also inspire those same girls to pick up a camera themselves one day. We're still waiting for box office sales demographics, but Forbes predicts the audiences will be largely women and children.
The directors of both movies have been setting the example for all of us on how to support two important projects, showing up at each other's premieres, promoting one another's movies, and Coogler even wrote an ode to DuVernay and Wrinkle for ESPN. That lifting up of one another has helped shape another narrative that popped up this weekend: After CNN reported that this weekend was the first time ever that films by Black directors with mega budgets held the two top spots at the box office, many outlets and fans on social media chose to report those numbers instead. So kudos to the people who chose to share that news instead of creating a false "battle" or a "showdown" — because that's the kind of positivity these two record-breaking projects deserve.