Thailand Purrs as ‘Black Panther’ Explodes Box Office

A Thai fan poses with a promotional display for “Black Panther.” Photo: Zom Marie / Facebook

BANGKOK — Film-goers are fangirling and fanboying over a new dashing royal figure – King T’Challa of Wakanda – after giving “Black Panther” a 100 million baht opening.

Marvel’s latest superhero film had the largest February opening in Thai box office history as Thais went crazy for Hollywood’s first mainstream black superhero, upsetting assumptions about audience appetites in a country obsessed with whiteness.

“Your Majesty has so much swag ka!” user Otzy Kunny said in a comment on a clip of T’Challa actor Chadwick Boseman that drew many online admirers.

Elsewhere, netizens expressed their affection in tweets and comments using the royal vocabulary reserved for Thai blue bloods, referring to the fictional king of Wakanda as faa baat, or “Your Majesty.”

The film’s four-day take of 100.7 million baht not only smashed the box office but left other new entries scrambling for crumbs. Chinese import “Monster Hunt 2” took in 2.54 million baht, and domestic release “Ma-Kub-Fon” failed to register a blip or make the Top 10.

No. 2 at the weekend box office was “Fifty Shades Freed,” which has earned 21.2 million in Thai ticket sales after two weeks in general release. “Black Panther” opened to single-day sales of 22 million baht and took only five days to cross the 100 million baht mark. In the United States, the film had the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time.

An estimated USD$169 million worth of tickets were sold overseas, likewise challenging industry assumptions that films with mostly black casts could have worldwide appeal.

In Thailand, the heroic tale of imperfect justice struck a chord for evoking current events.

Some sassy comments online referred to the recent accusations that construction mogul Premchai Karnasutra poached a black panther in a wildlife sanctuary.

“Be careful of Premchai, okay? We don’t know where he is now,” wrote Anuchai Boonsit. “He’s out hunting to eat panther penises too.”

“Your Majesty, your subject has been shot. Avenge him!” wrote Kra-Tai Reab-Reab, Facebook user.

“In reality, Black Panthers are the ones being hunted,” Humnoy Remix wrote.

In a country where whiteness is venerated and no one complains when black expats and visitors are openly targeted by law enforcement, Thais did not turn away from “Black Panther.” Online, that seemed partly due to Boseman’s magnetism.

“I’m on my knees, crawling into the movie theater. #TeamYourMajesty,” wrote Patter Saenprasit, adding copious heart emojis.

“That’s my husband!” wrote Kawalin Jitmontree, straight and to-the-point.

Others drew political parallels between the leadership of two kingdoms, fictional and real. The crossed-arm Wakandan greeting was seen in a similar gesture by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“A good leader like him listens to those around him and accepts mistakes they made,” Suchin Detwongsa wrote in a comment dripping with sarcasm.


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