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New York: Walt Disney Co.'s "Black Panther" has collected more than $1 billion at cinemas worldwide, making it the company's 16th movie to reach that milestone.

The Marvel superhero film, which has been setting sales records, broke into 10 figures after a strong debut in China on Friday. Its $521 million in US sales puts it among the 10 highest-grossing releases domestically, and international sales are expected to surpass $500 million this weekend, Disney said in an emailed statement.

The first blockbuster with a black superhero in the leading role, "Black Panther" has become a symbol for promoting diversity in the movie industry. African-Americans have been drawn to the big screen debut of an African protagonist and a story line that tackles race and colonization. Issues like inclusion and sexual harassment in the entertainment industry were also in the spotlight on 4 March at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.

China, the largest movie market after the US, has become a lucrative outpost for Disney and Marvel. "Avengers: Age of Ultron," a 2015 release, pulled in sales of $240 million there, while the 2016 hit "Captain America: Civil War" produced $181 million.

Heading into the weekend, "Black Panther" had tallied $940.3 million in worldwide sales since opening in the US on 16 February.
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