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There's an adage which states that one must spend money to make money. While there's certainly an argument to be had over how much that applies to various industries, it sounds like that's something the folks at Marvel have taken to heart recently with Black Panther, as the film's budget apparently eclipsed budgets of several other recent Marvel projects. In fact, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently opened up and explained that the studio was comfortable investing so much money in Black Panther because it understands how important it is for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Feige said:
It's a big story that deserves to be told in a big way, for all of the cultural and political reasons that people talk about, but also because it's such a key corner of our Marvel universe, and has been for decades and decades. We wanted to do it justice, and we have a studio with Disney, and leaders with Alan Horn and Bob Iger, who supported us a hundred percent.
There are a few different layers to that statement that seem worth digging into and dissecting. Chief among these layers is the fact that T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) seems poised to become one of the most important characters for the latter half of Marvel's Phase 3 slate and possibly even the (still unknown) Phase 4 slate. Wakanda has finally become a central part of the MCU landscape, and Feige seems to recognize that Marvel Studios had to invest a certain amount of money to adequately realize Ryan Coogler's vision for the fictional and technologically-advanced nation.
Without that money to create an authentic Wakanda, Black Panther would've had to make creative sacrifices along the way. If that had happened, then we would've ended up with something more in-line with John Singleton's ill-fated Black Panther pitch from the 1990s than the wholly comic book-accurate version seen in 2018.
Beyond the realization of Black Panther and his corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige's remarks to Vulture about the amount of money invested into Black Panther underscore the film's cultural and political importance. Much has already been said about the fact that Black Panther is the first modern Marvel movie to be fronted by a black superhero. With that in mind, the last few years have shown that diversity can directly translate to a strong box office performance if executed correctly, which means that embracing inclusivity in superhero genres can also serve as a savvy business decision.
Luckily, much of the evidence already seems to indicate that the investment will pay off for Disney and Marvel Studios when Black Panther finally debuts. Early ticket sales for Black Panther recently blew past those of DCEU competitors like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and estimates about the film's box office potential are nothing if not generous right now. In fact, they seem even to suggest that the film could make upwards of $170 million in North America over the course of President's Day weekend. That's not bad for a character who was arguably not that well-known amongst casual and mainstream audiences a few years ago. Ryan Coogler has said that he's not currently thinking about a sequel, but the potential for success means that the folks at Marvel Studios might want to put that on their radar relatively soon.