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‘Black Panther’ and ‘Coco’ Prove Diversity Is Good for the Movie Business, Panel Says

The worldwide success of Black Panther and Coco is evidence that a changing audience is hungry for representation and Hollywood executives can no longer ignore underrepresented demographics, according to Darnell Hunt, author of UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report.

LA Taco caught up with Hunt following a spirited panel discussion titled “Will Black Panther Really Change Hollywood?” presented by Zócalo and UCLA on Tuesday night at the ArcLight Hollywood. The panel featured Hunt, screenwriter Tananarive Due, Duke cultural historian Mark Anthony Neal, and Marvel Studios executive Nate Moore, who served as executive producer on Black Panther.

Hunt told LA Taco that Coco is similar example of diversity impacting economics. “Latinos watch more movies than anybody else per capita,” he said. “So you have this film that’s doing well and is critically acclaimed. We need to make more films like that.”

All of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh. A movie about Mexican heritage can play in China?’ Yeah. Because that movie is good.

Moore, who said he championed the Black Panther story at Marvel for eight years, told a diverse capacity crowd that he hopes the impact of Black Panther on Hollywood goes beyond improving representation for African Americans.

“It can’t stop with African and African American characters because man are there other audiences that are way underserved comparatively. It can be about Latin American characters, Asian characters, Indian characters. We need to tell more diverse stories,” Moore said to applause.

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Moore also noted that while progress will not happen overnight, studios can no longer ignore the bottom line.

“It’s all economics for studios. So I think now, they are like ‘Maybe we should be considering that thing that we passed on before because there is a market for that.’ Again, it’s a drop in the bucket in the same way ‘Coco’ is a drop in the bucket, where all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh. A movie about Mexican heritage can play in China?’ Yeah. Because that movie is good.”

Black Panther is already the most financially successful superhero movie of all time with $633 million domestic and $1.24 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Coco has brought in $209 million in the US and added $560 million at the foreign box office for a worldwide total surpassing $769 million.

Due said having executives like Moore in positions of power are key to changing the dynamic. "Every time I've been handed a check in Hollywood there was someone black in the pipeline. Either a producer who was black or an executive," he said.

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