Just days after the shocking passing of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, a Virginia drive-in theater is reporting some strange news. The Goochland Drive-In Theater was scheduled to screen Boseman’s celebrated turn as T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther this coming weekend, but informed its customers via Facebook that Disney had apparently stepped in to deny the theater the right to screen the film, despite the fact that it had already been booked. The proprietors of the Goochland Drive-In Theater say they’re unsure of why they’re now being denied Black Panther, adding that they’re “saddened and embarrassed by this turn of events,” and left scrambling to come up with a replacement. No explanation was apparently offered to the theater by Disney. You can see the Facebook post in full below.
EDIT: The initial Facebook post has since been deleted, and the Goochland Drive-In Theater seems to have booked Chadwick Boseman’s 42 for next weekend instead.
The screening was booked after news broke of the passing of Boseman at the age of 43 this weekend, from stage 4 colon cancer. Boseman had been initially diagnosed with the cancer in 2016, but never revealed his illness publicly. The Goochland Drive-In Theater, as a result, had planned to donate a portion of the proceeds to benefit cancer research. The theater operators now say they’ll donate a portion of the proceeds from whatever they end up showing instead.
“We had the film booked last Saturday,” said drive-in representatives to Richmond, Virginia’s local NBC12. “We are both saddened and embarrassed by this, and sincerely wish Disney would reconsider.”
It’s unclear whether other small or independent theaters or drive-ins attempting to book Black Panther have experienced similar instances of Disney withholding the film. On Sunday night, ABC aired the film in primetime, commercial-free in honor of Boseman. It’s understandable that many independent theaters would also want to book Black Panther in this particular moment, especially when these theaters are struggling during the pandemic. We have to wonder why in this particular case a specific drive-in is being denied, and if other stories of this nature will follow. We’ll update this post if that turns out to be the case.