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Black Panther sprung into the record books with a massive opening weekend that came at the hands of a mostly non-white audience—not to mention with more women than your typical superhero flick.
The trailblazing superhero movie from Walt Disney’s Marvel Studios easily topped Hollywood’s box office with one of the biggest theatrical debuts ever, grossing more than $ 426 million worldwide over the President’s Day holiday weekend. Millions of people around the world lined up at their local movie theater to watch Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther battle for the throne in the fictional African country of Wakanda.
In the U.S., 37% of the movie’s overall audience was African-American, which is well above the norm as the average movie audience is about 15% African-American, according to box office tracking company ComScore. White moviegoers made up just 35% of Black Panther‘s audience over its opening weekend. That an exceptional percentage of African-American viewers turned out for the highly-anticipated movie’s debut is not so surprising, considering that the movie had generated considerable buzz, thanks to its overall critical acclaim and the fact that it boasts an African-American director (a first for a Marvel superhero movie) and a mostly black cast led by Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Angela Bassett.
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The real surprise from Black Panther‘s huge arrival was just how high its box-office totals have climbed in only a few days. The movie is the latest and largest rejoinder to outdated and extremely misguided Hollywood concerns over the ability of movies featuring black-led casts and storylines to become legitimate blockbusters. Following recent strong box-office showings from movies like last year’s Get Out and Girls Trip, along with 2015’s Straight Outta Compton (all three of which were distributed by Universal Pictures), Black Panther‘s roaring success serves as yet another lesson that increased diversity on the big screen can also provide a boost at the box office.
Paul Dergarabedian, ComScore’s senior media analyst, raised the idea of Black Panther as “a game changer in terms of its ability to erase outdated perceptions of what can constitute a blockbuster/superhero movie,” in an e-mail to Fortune. “The across the board appeal of the film reflects that there are no apparent cultural limitations on the interest and love that people have for Black Panther,” he added.
Meanwhile, a higher percentage of women also showed up for Black Panther‘s opening weekend. Women represented 45% of the movie’s audience, which is less than the average moviegoing population but more than the typical female turnout for a superhero movie. The average superhero movie (many of which are led by mostly male characters) draws a 62% male audience, though Black Panther and last year’s Wonder Woman have bucked that trend.
Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman scored box-office success with a majority female audience when it opened last summer. While Black Panther‘s main character is male, the movie features several lead female characters—including Nyong’o, as well as T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. And, like Wonder Woman‘s island of female warriors, Black Panther‘s fictional Wakanda features the Dora Milaje, an elite squad of women fighters sworn to protect the country’s king.
If you’ve noticed Google doing a better job of understanding what you say using speech recognition on your smartphone lately, you’re not crazy. Google’s voice search has indeed become more accurate, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the tech company announced today.
“Today, we’re happy to announce we built even better neural network acoustic models using Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) and sequence discriminative training techniques,” Google Speech Team members Haşim Sak, Andrew Senior, Kanishka Rao, Françoise Beaufays and Johan Schalkwyk wrote in a blog post today. “These models are a special extension of recurrent neural networks (RNNs) that are more accurate, especially in noisy environments, and they are blazingly fast!”
The new models are working in the Google app for iOS and Android, as well as dictation on Android, which works inside of some third-party apps, the team members wrote.
Google has reported improvements in voice search not once but twice this year. Clearly the company has been investing in the underlying technology. RNNs are one increasingly popular approach to doing deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, and Google is widely thought to have a deep bench in deep learning.
But Apple and Microsoft, among others, have also been working to improve their voice recognition capabilities. Meanwhile, Facebook is also doing more in the area, having acquired a speech recognition company, Wit.ai, some months ago.
Speech could become more important as an input to searching the Web in the years to come. Baidu’s Andrew Ng, who is known for his work on the so-called Google Brain, last year predicted that within five years “50 percent of queries will be on speech or images.”
“In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries — so give it a try, and happy (voice) searching!” wrote Sak, Senior, Rao, Beaufays, and Schalkwyk.
Read the full blog post for more detail on how the team managed to get the new performance gains.
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