When deciding how to build a VIP list for an advanced showing of "Black Panther," managers at Lexus of Colorado Springs thought about inviting customers. They understood that was how other dealerships around the country approached the advertising campaign for the highly anticipated superhero flick swooping into theaters Friday.
"Then we had an 'aha' moment," said Zengi Wilson, new car sales manager at the local shop.
A black man himself, Wilson met with a colleague, a Hispanic woman, and they discussed the movie as "iconic" for being the first from the Marvel canon to star a minority cast.
"What can we do instead of pulling up that customer database?" Wilson recalled asking. "No, let's really dive into our community and invite kids who have never been in a VIP environment. The definition of a VIP is a very important person, and those are our kids. Our kids need to hear that."
So on Wednesday evening, young people from schools and community centers, many of them underprivileged, will fill a 233-person capacity theater at AMC Colorado Springs 13. They'll be the first in the city to see "Black Panther," which critics have praised as "a landmark."
Audience appetite has been whetted by commercials showing off the masked title character's aerial acrobatics as a sleek Lexus leads a chase. But more than thrills, "Black Panther" has been acclaimed for delivering on theme.
The New York Times in a headline called the movie "a defining moment for black America," and National Public Radio called it "a story we haven't seen told before in popular cinema - a story about black people completely untouched by colonialism, who exist entirely outside the global systems of institutionalized racism."
The movie is "a dream come true" for Meagan Jenkins. She'll be attending Wednesday with fellow members of the Black Student Union at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Black kids from the Boys and Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region as well as from Hillside Community Center and Sierra High School also will represent at the VIP night, and Jenkins hopes they leave feeling "that they are beautiful, and they are valued."
"And that they've played and will play a major role as members of society, whether history likes to erase that or not," she continued. "And that they have power."
The movie is based on the comics born at the height of the civil rights movement. Chadwick Boseman, previously seen as Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, plays King T'Challa, who with his powers must fight for his rule of Wakanda.
Perhaps "Black Panther" will affect youths the same way last year's "Wonder Woman" did, said James Sullivan, executive director of the local Boys & Girls Club.
"It couldn't help but resonate" for girls, he said. "They started to dream and fantasize about what their lives could be, and they took down some barriers about what they can do as opposed to what they can't do."