Not all heroes wear capes, but sometimes they want to make sure kids get a chance to see those heroes who do. Octavia Spencer will host Black Panther screenings in Mississippi for kids who want to watch the movie, but can't afford to, according to Entertainment Weekly. On Wednesday, Spencer announced on Instagram that, when Black Panther opens, she'll rent out a local theater to allow underserved communities in the state a chance to see a movie in which the hero looks like them.
The actor let fans known that she would be in Mississippi when Marvel's Black Panther opens on Feb. 16. "I think I will buy out a theatre in an underserved community there to ensure that all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero," she wrote. "I will let you know where and when Mississippi. Stay tuned." She ended her post, which featured a shot of Chadwick Boseman on the Black Panther poster, with the hashtag #KingsAndQueensWillRise. It's the tagline for the film, which is the first Marvel movie about a black superhero.
This isn't the first time that Spencer has reached into her own pocket to pay for a movie screening that she thinks is important. She rented out a theater in California to show her 2016 film Hidden Figures, which told the story of three black NASA mathematicians — Katherine Johnson Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson — who helped launch a man into space.
Last year, Spencer announced on Instagram that she would be renting out the Los Angeles theater. "If you know a family in need that would like to see our movie but can't afford it have them come," she wrote about the free 8 p.m. showing that she had financed over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. As to why she had rented out the theater, Spencer explained in her post, "My mom would not have been able to afford to take me and my siblings. So, I'm honoring her and all single parents." She made the film for people that look like her and wanted to make sure they would get to see it.
What stands out about this time is that Spencer isn't in Black Panther. Instead, she's renting out that Mississippi theater because she understands how important this movie is to so many. And she's not the only celebrity who understands; Snoop Dogg donated money so kids can see Black Panther in Harlem, NY. He also announced he was reaching out to director Ryan Coogler about funding a showing in Los Angeles "so that kids in L.A. can go see a superhero movie and learn about a real black superhero."
Spencer doesn't want anyone's economic standing to get in the way of them seeing it on the big screen opening weekend, which is why she's more than happy to foot the bill.
By supporting the movie, Spencer's demanding to see more people of color onscreen. Black Panther may be a superhero movie, but, if it does well, it could lead to more movies about people of color — with or without superpowers. More movies that show young kids there isn't one way to be Black or Asian or Hispanic. It could lead to more movies like Hidden Figures and Denzel Washington's Fences — both nominated for Best Picture Oscars last year. As Spencer pointed out in an interview with Variety, these films "aren’t necessarily just stories about African American struggle, but about daily life. There’s a need for it and an audience for it."
More importantly, younger audiences need to grow up seeing themselves on screen, something Spencer noted in a 2014 interview with The Daily Beast. "Little kids need to be able to turn on the TV and see real-world representations of themselves," she said. "It’s very important. You need that representation."
Even more important is giving those kids a chance to see those characters that represent them in action. With Spencer's help, now some will, free of charge.