'Black Panther' and 'Get Out' could signify change for African-Americans in Hollywood

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It's a record-setting holiday weekend for the Marvel superhero movie "Black Panther" -- directed by Oakland's own Ryan Coogler. (KGO-TV)

It's a record-setting holiday weekend for the Marvel superhero movie "Black Panther" -- directed by Oakland's own Ryan Coogler.

It's also been exactly a year since the release of "Get Out" -- a film that's just received four Oscar nominations: for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

In the case of "Black Panther," it's the most successful February movie opening ever, with $192 million in North American ticket sales.

As for "Get Out," the attention from the Academy is notable because all four nods highlight the work of African-American nominees.

RELATED: See the dazzling African-inspired fashion fans wore to 'Black Panther' premieres

At theaters in San Francisco, "Black Panther" showed to sold-out matinee crowds on Presidents' Day. Some moviegoers were die-hard fans of the comic book series, but others said they came for a different reason:

"Usually, African American people are portrayed as addicts and criminals," said 19-year-old Kiara Williams. "I want to see something where we're not portrayed as that."

Williams and her friend said they might return later for the theater's free encore screening of "Get Out" a year after its original U.S. debut. They would be seeing a pair of films some call breakthroughs, just two years after outcry over a lack of African-American representation at the Oscars.

"It comes at this point where we just got really impatient," said Lonny Avi Brooks, a professor of strategic communication at Cal State East Bay. "'Black Panther' and 'Get 'Out' are both protest films, in my opinion."

But Brooks says the two movies go about that protest in different ways.

"I think get out really speaks to police brutality," he said. "And how we have to carry ourselves when we're outside the home."

RELATED: 'Black Panther' director has Oakland roots

"Black Panther," he said, goes a step further -- crossing into a genre known as "Afro-futurism," imagining a future in which racial dynamics are different.

"With a whole black cast, with white characters as minor notes, it's like, oh wow, that's a universe I'm not used to seeing," he said.

Some moviegoers we talked to think it's just Hollywood trying to make a buck.

"Public image, how can we market, how can we get a bunch of sales going?" said East Bay resident Lamar Pugh.

But others said if Hollywood studios get rich off these movies, they've earned it.

"It's bringing in money and it's giving the minority an opportunity to come up in the world, so I like that," Murray Edwards told us as he bought one of the last remaining "Black Panther" tickets.

Marvel, which produced "Black Panther," is owned by Disney, which is also the parent company of ABC7.

Click here for more stories on Black History.
Related Topics:
entertainmentmoviemoviesmovie theatermovie newsAfrican Americanshollywoodsocietyblack historyblack history monthLos AngelesSan Francisco
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