THE PANTHERS: Strongest ever opening week for a drama on TVNZ OnDemand

Ahead of its international premiere at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this Friday 9th September, it has been announced that THE PANTHERS TV series had the strongest first week of any drama since the start of TVNZ OnDemand.

Inspired by true events THE PANTHERS was released in Aotearoa on 15th August and earned praise from critics for its bold storytelling, artful infusion of music and strong performances.

THE PANTHERS follows Will ‘Ilolahia (Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi), who along with a group of young street gangsters and university students, form The Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s; to fight a broken system and become the history-making revolutionaries that their community so desperately need them to be.

Speaking on behalf of the filmmakers, co-creator Halaifonua Finau said “We couldn’t be happier about the success of THE PANTHERS here at home. Our goal, first and foremost, was to make a ‘street classic’ one that was entertaining, engaging and honoured The Polynesian Panthers and it’s so mean to see it resonating so strongly with New Zealanders.”

Finau’s writing and producing partner, Tom Hern added, “We are indebted to the real Polynesian Panthers for their work to make Aotearoa a better place, and for giving us the opportunity to tell their story. We hope that they, along with our amazing cast and crew are proud of this record-breaking achievement.”

TVNZ Commissioner Steve Barr said, “We’re delighted that our loyal audiences have responded so strongly to THE PANTHERS, and that new audiences are joining OnDemand specifically to watch the show. The Polynesian Panthers were civil rights warriors and we’re thrilled they and the cast and crew are getting the recognition they deserve.”

The news comes off the back of Schuster-Koloamatangi being named as one of the TIFF 2021 Rising Stars.

Previous Rising Stars include New Zealander Vinnie Bennett, who went on to star in Fast and Furious 9 as well as Golden Globe winner Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black).

Along with Schuster-Koloamatangi as Will, the series features newcomer Lealani Siaosi as Melani Anae, and international stars Beulah Koale (Hawaii Five-O, Thank You For Your Service) and Frankie Adams (Mortal Engines, The Expanse) – both of whom returned home to NZ to shoot the series; as well as veteran actor Roy Billing (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Underbelly), as Robert ‘Piggy’ Muldoon.

THE PANTHERS will have its international premiere as an Official Selection at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, the first New Zealand-made TV series to do so and one of only four TV shows accepted to the prestigious festival.

THE PANTHERS was created and executive produced by Halaifonua Finau and Tom Hern of Tavake, in association with Four Knights Film. The series is co-produced by Crystal Vaega and co-executive producers are James Napier Robertson, Will ‘Ilolahia and Kini Roy Earley. Associate Producers are Jaunnie ‘Ilolahia, Luciane Buchanan and Timēna Apa.

Commissioned by TVNZ, it was made with the support of NZ On Air with Endeavor Content representing worldwide rights for the series.