The Hollywood ‘Black Panther’ premiere brings out black film glitterati in full force To rousing cheers and standing ovations from glamorous stars the long awaited film is here

HOLLYWOOD — Director Ryan Coogler stood on stage next to Marvel film executives, microphone in hand, and introduced his cast of Black Panther, one-by-one. He could barely get his first welcoming words out before the audience leapt to its feet to to give him a standing ovation — the first of several throughout the night at the film’s world premiere at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre — an event almost unheard of, even at a place designed to celebrate such an accomplishment.

No one knew as he was bringing out his cast, if this film was any good. What they did know was that this was a moment. When Sterling K. Brown stood on stage after his introduction, he raised one fist in the air with the the kind of conviction that Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos did on the Olympic podium in Mexico City almost fifty years ago. It was yet another moment where the crowd erupted into applause, and again, the first credit had yet to roll for the film. But this was a celebration. And most of black Hollywood — and notable Hollywood dignitaries — was there to witness.

Last time a Hollywood theater was this jam-packed, there was surely a lightsaber involved.

There was no bad seat in the Dolby Theater. On the main floor, people like Jamie Foxx, Donald Glover, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monáe, Reggie Hudlin, Lena Waithe, Usher, Yara Shahidi, Elizabeth Banks and George Lucas sat amongst the film’s stars, which included Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.

Lupita Nyong’o attends the Los Angeles Premiere “Black Panther” at Dolby Theatre on January 29, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Up in the mezzanine sat notables like dwirector Ava Duvernay, and actors like Tessa Thompson, Issa Rae, David Oyelowo, and many, many others who all gathered to watch the film they’d been waiting years for.

A Black Panther feature film was announced more than three years ago, on October 28, 2014, and since then an ever-growing fanbase — has been waiting, with bated breath for the world premiere. The film’s arrival has been the subject of hilarious memes, twitter polls and Facebook status updates, all backed up by impressive pre-sales from Fandango. Deadline reported that “after tickets went on sale Monday night, Black Panther is already outstripping Captain America: Civil War as Fandango’s best-selling MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] title in the first 24 hours of presales. Captain America: Civil War kicked off the opening of summer 2016 during the first weekend of May with $179M.”

Finally, that day is here — for the lucky ones. Fans crowded the red carpet before The Dolby Theatre Monday night just to get a glimpse of the cast (and their famous admirers) as they posed, and did celebratory victory laps. Per usual, with a film of this magnitude, mobile phones were bagged before anyone was allowed inside the space and placed into security bags. Last time a Hollywood theater was this jam-packed, there was surely a lightsaber involved. This crowd, of course, is most certainly the blackest premiere crowd for a film of this magnitude.

A rousing cheer went up in the theater just as the lights were dimmed, and by the time Coogler’s epic story of the Black Panther’s homeland, the fictional African country of Wakanda, was done, the applause and cheers were even greater. It’s a moment, and it’s a moment that was witnessed by some of the biggest giants in the industry.

We’re not allowed to offer up plot points or spoilers — fans wouldn’t want that anyway! — until an official review embargo is lifted: it’s set for Tuesday, February 6th at noon EST, but we can tell you that the film is quite magical. And very authentically black — both in nuanced ways, and overtly — and importantly, it’s very, very good. It falls right in line with what we’ve come to expect from Marvel productions.

And as the even luckier ones who attended the screening poured into the Hollywood Roosevelt across the street, wrists draped in hot pink bands signaling they had entrance into the intimate after party, the celebration continued. Directors F. Gary Gray, John Singleton and producer Kenya Barris were among the crowd feasting on turkey meatballs, mac ‘n’ cheese and sweet potato fries as tunes by Mary J. Blige, Chubb Rock, Bobby Brown and Bruno Marssoundtracked the night.

A long-line of well-wishers greeted Coogler — most of his family from his hometown of Oakland, CA were in attendance — and Nyong’o at one point entertained a crowd under a tent while bopping to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.”

By the time Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” dropped, the party felt every bit of a backyard boogie. olks like Meagan Good and her studio executive husband DeVon Franklin were amongst the last to trickle out as the after party came to a close around 1:30 a.m. And even then no one really wanted to go home and end the night.

The film will finally be released on Feb. 16th — in the thick of Black History Month — and just about everyone in attendance is eager to see how well the film will be received by a large, general interest viewing audience. But if Monday night’s premiere was any indication? Well, in the words of a Kendrick Lamar song that felt every bit a theme of the night’s festivities, “we gon be alright.”


The fate of the ‘Furious’ director F. Gary Gray From Central L.A. to the world of superfast cars — and supersuccessful films — Gray has got a ticket to ride

The last time F. Gary Gray directed a movie, the world got an in-depth look at the area he grew up in. It was his 2015 Straight Outta Compton, the origin story of one of the best hip-hop collectives to ever step inside a recording booth. Rock & Roll Hall of Famers N.W.A. launched the careers of producer/impresario Dr. Dre and film star and mogul Ice Cube, both of whom have created multimillion-dollar empires and influenced not only hip-hop music, but Hollywood and culture as a whole.

Straight Outta Compton was a dream come true for Gray. It was one of 2015’s best reviewed films and it was the No. 1 movie in the country for three weeks in a row. This got the industry debating — again — the merits of black films, and how well they can do around the country and around the world. Gray had his pick of projects; certainly his name was tossed around as a contender to direct Marvel’s Black Panther. Then quite ceremoniously — on Twitter — Gray announced he’d be directing the next installation of the The Fast and the Furious franchise.

“The story and the challenge,” Gray said, explaining why he went with The Fate of the Furious, which opens on Friday. “Dom [Vin Diesel] going rogue is something that you’d never expect, if you follow the franchise at all. Dom goes into Darth Vader mode and does something that’s really surprising for a lot of the fans.” The story line is a major twist in the franchise, which this time is set in New York City, Cuba, and Iceland. “Then you combine all that with the biggest action heroes in the world, and sprinkle in a couple Oscar winners. I think that’s a great recipe for a fun ride.”

“Shooting in Cuba was profound for me.”

It’s also a recipe for another record-breaking box-office success story: $380 million globally is the prediction. The Fast franchise — this is the eighth film — destroys the notion that people of color can’t carry a film overseas. The films star a bevy of brown actors in various hues — Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Michelle Rodriguez — and does some of its best work in coveted international markets. The film’s seventh installment was its best (it also was the last for franchise star Paul Walker, who died in a 2014 car crash) and was, in terms of box office might, the fifth biggest film of all time.

Gray has done some of his best work telling diverse, well-rounded stories: 1995 cult classic Friday, 1996’s Set it Off, 2003’s The Italian Job, and 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen. “Globally, a lot of the fans can see themselves as one of the characters in these stories,” Gray said. “It feels inclusive and diverse.”

The success of the Furious film series didn’t scare Gray. It energized him. “I always want to top myself,” he said. “I always want to see what I can do that I’ve never done before.” He knows fans expect a certain spectacle from a Fast movie and believes he and his crew delivered on that. “But I wanted to push the limits of the story, the performances, the drama, and the humor. And add my twist to it. Am I nervous? Maybe a little,” he said. “But once you’ve defined what your goal is, it’s just about hitting that. How can we make this franchise, this movie, each installment, fresh — not only for the fans, but for newcomers? That was the goal.”

“Globally, a lot of the fans can see themselves as one of the characters in these stories,” Gray said. “It feels inclusive and diverse.”

Another goal? To challenge himself personally. And that mission was absolutely accomplished.

“Shooting in Cuba was profound for me. Sometimes as Westerners, you get comfortable, and when you go to a place like Cuba — you realize what things we take for granted,” he said. “Although you’re being creative and you’re shooting a movie, you walk away slightly changed, and hopefully better as a person, as a director, a storyteller.” He said he watched the Havana residents see Havana from the air for the first time as it brought tears to their eyes. “To see their beloved capital from a bird’s-eye view was profound for them, which made it profound for us.”

And if he can sharpen himself professionally, that’s the cherry on top.

“I’m walking into a franchise that has existed for 15-plus years. Actors who know their characters. And while I’ve worked with more than half of the principal cast, I had to change my approach. I had to adjust my approach to get performances,” he said. “I like to think I’m better for all of that.”