The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture restarted film screenings with a splash on Monday night, hosting the star-studded opening of “King Richard,” about the childhood of tennis's Williams sisters.

"I've actually not been in here with people in it, so it's really an honor to have you here tonight," Kevin Young, the museum's director, told the audience in the museum's 355-seat Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyAfrican American History Museum restarts film screenings with 'King Richard'  America last: Biden goes full Oprah, considers 0K payments to illegal migrants separated at border Court rules Prince Philip's will to remain sealed for 90 years MORE Theatre ahead of the screening. 

Smithsonian museums reopened gradually this summer, with the African American museum and two other locations requiring free, timed-entry passes to limit crowds. The museum attracted roughly 2 million visitors annually before the pandemic, but fewer than 400,000 people were able to visit the exhibits in 2020.


Based on a true story, “King Richard” follows the story of Richard Williams, the father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams, as they rise from practicing at abandoned tennis courts in Compton, Calif., to becoming sports legends. 

The film, starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, will be released Friday in theaters and on HBO Max.  

Young, who started as the museum's director in January, said the first film being screened since the start of the pandemic served as an example of "living history" that promotes hope and equality. The sisters have consistently broken barriers for Black women, and Venus Williams is credited with bringing equal prize money for women at Wimbledon.  

The Williams sisters are honored with statues in the museum's sports gallery, an exhibit Young called one of his favorites. 

"It's one that I think speaks to generations of people who grew up seeing these heroes, whether it's Muhammad Ali or the Williams sisters, really who were more than just their sport," Young told The Hill.

Venus Williams, who was the first Black woman to be ranked No. 1 in singles in the Open Era, credits family as the reason for her success. 


"Family is everything," she told the audience at the event. "You have to put it first. If you've got that, you've got everything."

Although she said failure is inevitable at times, Williams, who was an executive producer of the film, encouraged young people to realize that pursuing a dream should be "fun along the way."

"We were happy," she said. "We didn't lack anything. We didn't need much more than what we had and we were together."