The $60 million opening weekend is the fifth biggest August opening for a film in history and the biggest ever August debut for an R-rated film.
But despite that monumental feat, Hollywood continues to underestimate and ignore the value of black films and the black consumer.
The number of movies featuring African American themes and characters is still small and reflects a misguided idea of what will sell.
“Films with predominantly black casts have domestic returns on investment that dwarf predominantly white-cast films, despite minimal backing from studios,” says Monica White Ndonou author of Shaping the Future of African American Film. “Hollywood argues that Black films don’t make money, but the evidence reveals that this is not true. There are color-coded economics at the core of decisions to concentrate money and resources on predominantly white-cast films.”
So how much do films about black people and black culture have to make to prove our stories are vital and necessary?
In the African-American community, anticipation for Straight Outta Compton was high. No one in Hollywood thought the film would open up as big as it did.
Was it discounted because they thought it would only appeal to a so called ‘urban’ audience? Just as the hip-hop audience is diverse, clearly, with such a massive turnout in theaters, black folks weren’t the only ones watching Straight Outta Compton.
We are, however, buying tickets in large numbers. According to CinemaCon more than 170 million African-Americans went to the movies in 2013, a 13 percent increase from roughly 150 million in 2012.
This can be attributed to 2013’s status as a banner year for award-winning and critically acclaimed films about black culture, including 12 Years a Slave, Fruitvale Station, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Given the success of films about black culture and films starring black actors, why are our stories continually marginalized and why aren’t they seen as money makers?
Is Hollywood afraid to admit Black movies and moviegoers matter? Or are they afraid to share the power?