Nia DaCosta is the First Black Female Director to Debut Atop the U.S. Box Office

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Nia DaCosta attends a screening of 'Little Woods' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Fe)

It's a good week to be director Nia DaCosta. Not only did her new film, horror flick Candyman, have a spectacular opening weekend, she made history in the process, becoming the first Black female director to debut at No. 1 at the U.S. box office.

Before DaCosta, Ava DuVernay had come the closest to nabbing the top spot, opening at No. 2 in 2018 with A Wrinkle In Time.

Candyman, an update of the classic 1992 horror film of the same name, opened in theaters nationwide on Friday and ended the weekend raking in more than $22 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

DaCosta's Candyman places the urban legend in contemporary Chicago, and stars Bay Area actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who once worked as a San Francisco city planner. Abdul-Mateen II is probably most recognizable for his roles in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and HBO's Watchmen. Here he plays protagonist Anthony McCoy, an artist whose career aspirations lead him to dangerous places.

DaCosta directed and co-wrote the film with Get Out director Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, one of the executive producers of BlacKkKlansman. Premiering alongside the film was a "social impact initiative," a campaign created to promote conversation around issues explored in the film, such as gentrification.


Candyman's box office success and DaCosta's historic accomplishment are especially impressive given the current climate. Movie theaters are still recovering, as the pandemic drags on. Last year's lockdowns hit the film industry hard, but as theaters have reopened over the last year with new safety measures in place, industry experts are predicting an eventual comeback.

Next up for DaCosta? She's joined the Marvel cinematic universe after having signed on last year as director of The Marvels, a sequel to 2019's Captain Marvel that's currently in production, according to Deadline. It's another history-making move for the 31-year-old director and screenwriter: The Marvels will make her the first Black woman director to sit at the helm of a Marvel movie.

Moving from horror to action has been a refreshing change in theme, DaCosta said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly last month.

"It's a lot less traumatizing to work on for sure," she said. "But this movie also deals with specific, personal, sometimes sad things. But ... it's been nice to work in a different world for sure."

This story includes reporting from KQED's Rae Alexandra. Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.