ATLANTA – One of the year’s most anticipated films was shot right in Atlanta.
‘Black Panther’ has already broken box office records, and tickets for the Feb. 16 premiere were nearly sold out throughout the city. Not only has the Marvel Studios film had an economic impact on Atlanta, but excitement for the film has continued to grow.
PHOTOS: Atlanta non-profit buys out theater for 700 kids to see 'Black Panther'
On Tuesday, the non-profit Phoenix Leadership Foundation along with The DeKalb Chamber and Movie Tavern took more than 700 metro-Atlanta students from 14 schools to see the critically-acclaimed movie.
Jay Bailey, chairman of the Phoenix Leadership Foundation, said the event had the goal of allowing as many students as possible who might not have the opportunity to see the film to experience this action-packed blockbuster because of the positive role models the film portrays.
Bailey said he knew the moment when he wanted to do an event like this. It was 2 years ago on an airplane coming back to Atlanta from Los Angeles.
“I was watching ‘Captain America Civil War’ where they introduce the character Black Panther, and immediately as a 40-year-old man I felt like a 12-year-old kid again,” Bailey said.
Growing up, Bailey’s superheroes were Batman, Superman, Aquaman, and more. But none of them looked like him.
“This was the first time in live action that I saw a superhero on the big stage that I saw my reflection in,” Bailey said. “I knew that day, at some point we were going to buy out a theater and give the opportunity to hundreds of kids to see this movie.”
Bailey’s foundation aims to expose children to positive role models and he knows that images matter.
“I think kids should know their image is regal, intelligent, wealthy, powerful and royal,” Bailey said. “It’s a deep passion of mine.”
Bailey said this event is a reality, thanks to more than 600 individual donors.
“This was not an effort of where we went through the big corporations to sponsor,” Bailey said. “This was truly an effort of the village.”
Donors were able to sponsor a child for the event for $25, which included transportation, movie admission, a hot lunch, snack, popcorn, movie favors and gifts. The students also got to experience live drummers, African dancers and storytelling.
Not only did the kids get to take over all eight screens of the theater, they got to ride in luxury buses, see Universe Soul Circus, cosplayers, and more.
“From the minute we pick them up at their school, to the minute we drop them off, we want their entire experience to be unforgettable,” Bailey said. “We’ve gone to great lengths, great effort, and expense to make sure we’re showing the next generation that the village is there and we care about them.”
Including both children and adults, millions across the globe have been excited about the film since it was first announced, a movie Bailey and others have called a game-changer. And that didn't hurt the film shatter box-office records over the weekend with an estimated $218 million earned through Presidents Day.
“I think it will start to change the narrative. These images matter and this movie does a phenomenal job making the 12-year-old Jay look at a screen and know that I can be regal, I can be smart, I can be strong, I can be powerful," Bailey said. "And so, to see these images [in the movie] of black people, on the main stage--leaders in science and medicine and technology--is a powerful, powerful image.”
Along with the cultural impact on Atlanta, ‘Black Panther’ has made an economic impact ahead of its premiere.
The Atlanta-based film generated more than $83.9 million in local economic activity and contributed more than $26.5 million in wages to more than 3,100 workers across the state. Production not only filmed in downtown Atlanta, but also in Vine City, Decatur, Marietta, Cartersville, and other locations across north Georgia and metro Atlanta.
“This is a beautiful coming together of the community,” Bailey said. “This is just the start. ... We're doing everything we can to make sure they'll remember this moment for the rest of their lives. ... To surround our kids not only for one day, but to continue to surround them with these images that reinforce the notion that they're good enough, and they're powerful.”
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