Critics have long thought that movies headlined by predominantly Black casts couldn't top box office charts. They felt the appeal would only be for a niche audience, and thus they often didn't get the kind of backing needed to help it take off. As a result, only a comparatively small percentage of these stories hit the mainstream.  

With the numbers Marvel's Black Panther pulled in this weekend, that thinking should no longer prevail. Leading up to the premiere of the highly-rated movie, there were plenty of projections about how well the film was expected to do worldwide.

And now, with data from Box Office Mojo, speculation on the potential is no longer needed. The sales numbers speak for themselves:

  • $192 million for a 3-day weekend is the fifth largest 3-day weekend opening of all time in the U.S.
  • Largest February movie opening of all-time
  • Largest President's Day movie opening of all-time
  • By the end of the 4-day holiday weekend, Black Panther will hit more than $218 million in sales
  • Second largest opening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only behind The Avengers
  • Premiered in 48 markets globally, and was the fifteenth largest global opening weekend of all time
  • Total global sales over the 3-day weekend topped $361 million
  • The largest global debut for a film with a predominantly Black cast

What the massive success of Black Panther means for businesses around the world

Products that speak to the specific needs of people of color can sometimes be scarce. Whether it is women looking for a shade of hosiery or makeup foundation that matches their skin tone, or hair products that aren't relegated to the tiny "ethnic" section of the store, finding products and services that meet our unique needs is often challenging.

As a consumer, it is quite frustrating, and I've latched on with a death grip to the brands I did find that had what I needed. And as a consultant, it has been disheartening when interacting with leaders and companies that struggled to wrap their heads around why marketing to diverse audiences was even necessary.

Far too many companies with the resources to develop products and services that address the needs of people of color have been reluctant to do so because they haven't always seen or made an effort to even evaluate the business case associated with catering to these segments. No bueno.

The success of Black Panther proves that moving forward, that isn't a wise decision.

As more companies begin to deliver remarkable products and experiences to women, people of color, and other minority groups that have largely been ignored or underserved in the past, they are responding with their support and loyalty.

The dollars associated with that support and loyalty are worth paying attention to.

Last year, with sales of $821 million, Wonder Woman became the highest grossing superhero origin film of all time. And the ultra-inclusive beauty line Fenty Beauty earned $72 million in its first month.

Now, these increasingly powerful customer groups see that it is possible to be served well by companies who want them as customers. As a result, they are becoming more vocal, in demanding other businesses vying for their resources, stop treating them like an afterthought.

As the U.S. tracks toward having a minority majority population in the coming years, it is becoming clearer that a new normal is on the horizon. Gone are the days when #allmalepanels, culturally insensitive and non-representative marketing gets a pass just because it has been the status quo for so long.

These underserved communities are using both their voices and their wallets to make powerful statements. The businesses who listen and adjust how they operate accordingly will earn the loyalty of this growing and fiercely loyal base of customers as a result.