The next few weeks could determine what graces our theaters for years to come.
Pop culture is enamored with Black Panther. Marvel’s movie has taken the world by storm and for a good reason: it’s a groundbreaking film with memorable characters and the prime example of a great Marvel movie. Even though Black Panther has opened to historic numbers and continued to break box office records, the next few weeks are pivotal. Studios are releasing major motion pictures featuring a woman or PoC at the center of the story. Audiences can prove what they want to see and that Marvel isn’t the only studio in town that can open a movie.
There is more diversity in Hollywood than we’ve seen in some time. Films such as Alex Garland’s Annihilation, Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, Simon West’s Tomb Raider, and Steven S. DeKnight’s Pacific Rim Uprising are exciting films signifying a massive change in motion pictures. Perhaps none of the films have as much pressure as Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time.
A Wrinkle in Time is Disney’s feature, but it doesn’t have the guarantee of success that comes with Marvel or Star Wars properties. A Wrinkle in Time is based on a Madeleine L’Engle 1962 novel of the same name, and it has maintained cultural relevance through the years, but it doesn’t have the profile of those other properties. It is a major gamble for Disney, but they couldn’t have asked for a better lead into the film. The audience that saw A Wrinkle in Time trailer attached to Black Panther is an audience that overlaps nicely. If audiences were at Black Panther to celebrate movies of diversity, then it is likely they’ll be intrigued by A Wrinkle in Time.
Ava DuVernay might be significant in film circles, but she never expected to get this gig. In an interview with TIME she expressed, “Women directors, we’re not getting people calling us up saying, ‘Hey let’s talk about this $100 million sci-fi epic.’” DuVernay is the fifth woman to solo-direct (Captain Marvel will be directed by the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) a picture with a budget over $100 million and the first African-American woman to ever do so. The other four women are Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widowmaker), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Niki Caro (Mulan), and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2). It is quite a leap for DuVernay from directing Selma and 13th, to directing a film of this measure. She seems to be handling it “quite well” as she told TIME.
Feature films featuring PoC as the leads haven’t always excelled at the box office, but times have changed. Perhaps the most prominent signal of change was the sleeper hit Straight Outta Compton in 2015. The film had a budget of $28 million and grossed $201 million worldwide. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award and received great critical acclaim. There have been other surprises including Girls Trip that made a similar return of investment, exceeding box office predictions. We already know about Black Panther, but there is one other film that has been a big influence, and that is Hidden Figures.
Hidden Figures influenced a lot of girls of color to explore STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math and there is a major push for youths of all background and religions to explore these fields. One young woman believes that A Wrinkle in Time could have a similar influence on young women that Hidden Figures did, and her name is Taylor Richardson. She believes that the film could have a major impact because it shows young, black girls they are deserving of a chance to be part of the sci-fi cultural canon. Not to mention that it features a brown girl front and center in Meg (Storm Reid) who will attempt to overcome evil. Her goal is to send 1000 girls to see A Wrinkle in Time in theaters so they can be inspired to achieve their greatest dreams. She has already reached her goal, but additional funds will be used to engage and empower more children.
Hollywood is making great strides in including diversity front and center. There are still plenty of hiccups along the way, but films like A Wrinkle in Time are setting a course towards a bright future. This isn’t just about Disney beginning a new franchise film in a sea of blockbusters. This is also about one of the most diverse casts ever in a motion picture and showing young girls they can have representation in major feature films. If these stories are to continue to grace multiplexes, then we have to embrace the change and show Hollywood this is what we want.