As Oscars season approaches and Christmas grows closer, the marketing powers behind Marvel's Black Panther hope to tap into yet another market: fine art print aficionados and anybody who wants a nice quality movie image in their home or office.
Classic Stills, the LA- and London-based publisher that had previously released a limited number of iconic and framed images from Game of Thrones, is releasing a similarly limited series of framed images from the Ryan Coogler-directed film. Only 18 images are available, including some pictures you've already seen widely distributed in media, down to rarely-seen images and some of the film's more iconic moments.
"We feel Black Panther is the perfect collection to launch at the end of 2018 given the huge impact it had this year, both at the box office and from a cultural perspective," says Rene Freling, the company's founder. "The movie broke so much new ground that we wanted to give fans an opportunity for the film to live on in their homes, and to continue providing inspiration for some of those it has impacted so positively."
Only 100 numbered copies of each print are available for purchase. But as sales from other categories of Black Panther merchandise show, nearly everything from underwear to Halloween costumes to Christmas toys are on America's hot list. So why not something for the adult movie poster collector or the fine art lover?
Film art is a huge market - both physical images and the digital images collected by the mega fans who have Panther Pinterest boards several scrolls deep. These same fans love to procure movie posters on up to life-size cardboard cutouts that are often secreted away from their local movie theater. Of course earlier this year, when critics (and apparently some Hollywood executives) were surprised that the Wakanda juggernaut took home $700 million domestically and $646 million outside of the United States, it was tough to find good looking Panther merch. The kids wanted action figures and underwear right after seeing the film. Adults wanted outfits for cosplay before the film even came out.
Since then, much has been made about the missed opportunity of making fans wait even 30 days for those types of items. After the world realized (again) that a black cast can create a blockbuster, estimators said that Disney's merch haul for this film would be upwards of $250 million. That estimate at the time didn't include items sold by Disney itself or periphery items sold on sites like Etsy. As for the Marvel fine art collection, the images are selling from $125 to $495 depending upon the image you select, the size and the framing treatment.
As CBS News noted earlier this year:
In a recent note to clients, Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink raised her estimates for Hasbro's 2018 "Black Panther" merchandise sales from $60 million to as much as $100 million because retailers are "aggressively chasing inventory."
Fast forward to now: I was even able to find Panther hats and gloves online at a major retailer for my own toddler for a Christmas stocking stuffer present. And over the Halloween season, I saw dozens of dozens of pint-sized Black Panthers and Dora Milaje asking for tricks or treats. I also have attended two kiddie parties with Panther accessories for children arguably too young to have even seen the movie to begin with.
And that's just kiddie stuff. So it stands to reason that grown folk fans will opt for something bigger and more impactful than an action figure. In particular, in some African-American homes, Black Panther art - official art - will likely make it right up there on the wall of fame in proximity to classic portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama and family, Michael Jordan and Oprah. For other families, the images are not just movie pictures but they also represent the wide breadth and depth of narratives that exist surrounding Africa and her children. These images are important.
Other mega movie franchises such as Star Wars are known for their collectors and the frenzy surrounding merchandise. That's nice. But I have a new prediction: As the Wakadans prep for Oscar season and a second film, it would not surprise me if these particular pictures - and other movie paraphernalia like those cardboard cutouts - create a new cult of collectors whose numbers will eventually surpass even that galaxy far, far away. And they'll have fine art to prove it.
I'm a Pulitzer-nominated, independent journalist, and I love reporting on arts and culture. TV, music and movies are my jam. You've seen my byline as a staff reporter at The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald and The Chicago Sun-Times. I'm the former senior editor of Ebony magaz...
Adrienne Gibbs is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow her @adriennewrites on FB and Twitter.