Investing In Black Films Is Far From Financial Suicide
“BPM, I did not say that Hollywood was not racist. Nor am I interested in making excuses for anyone’s racism.
But to argue that it’s primarily or just racism and not profit that makes people finance artistic/business endeavors misses the point in my opinion.
Notable exceptions aside, there are very few black actors, musicians, artists, writers who earn as much as their white counterparts. This is not because of a lack of talent but because the white audience simply does not support those endeavors to the same extent.
It really doesn’t matter whether the black themed movie earns its investment back or not. What matters is, again with exceptions, the studio’s chances of making hundreds or millions or billions of dollars are higher with a “white themed” movie than with a “black themed” movie.
The Black American is 12% of the US population. If the
67-70% white audience has shown a marked reluctance to see black themed movies then a studio would have to be suicidal to spend a lot of time and money where they believe it to be unlikely to bring a return.
There are plenty of positive black themed movies in smaller release or straight to DVD. That’s where the change will come from, not from Hollywood. “Honeydripper” was a beautiful film but how many people were even aware of it, let alone saw it. Same goes for “Akeelah…” or “The Great Debators”.
I should have written ” 50-60 years ago, instead of 30-40″ but the larger point remains. Black films are a minority group. Every now and again there will be some that are incredibly more profitable or popular than anyone expected but since generally whites don’t want to watch such films it will be an uphill battle.
For example, imagine an epic story told of the Haitian Revolution in “300″ style.
By definition, almost all of the whites would be of course, the bad guys, and incredibly monstrous sadistic bad guys at that.
Do you think that whites in the US or elsewhere would flock to see that movie? How would you convince anyone to loan you the hundreds of millions of dollars to create a masterpiece telling of that story? It can be done of course but it’s exceedingly difficult.
We know that Hollywood/the white movie going audience is racist. My response is now that we know that what do we do? We can call them racist all day long but that doesn’t change anything. The only way they fund movies is if they think the film will make a sizable profit. Many (most? of) of Hollywood films lose money which if anything makes them more conservative in laying out the sizable amounts for an epic blockbuster.” – Shady_Grady
Thanks for the feedback Shady_Grady,
But again, I have to ask, if it was only a matter of money, that does not equate when black films are just as profitable as their white film counterparts. Take the many black films that have been named throughout this discussion. They may not make as much money as their white film counterparts. But because they are not as expensive as their white film counterparts they don’t have to sell nearly as much to justify their investment. People who deal in money aren’t necessarily looking at making billions of dollars. The bottom line is ROI, return on investment. If I spend a ten million dollars and earn fifty million dollars as a return, that’s a much better investment than a billion dollars that returns $1.5 billion. The first has a 400% return on the investment and the other has a 50% return. Which one would you prefer?
I don’t buy the argument that black films are money losers. Far from it! Even your example of The Great Debaters returned $30 million on its $15 million budget. Compare that to something like Will Farrell’s Land of the Lost that had a $100 million budget and to date has made $65 million. Mr. Farrell’s movie Semi Pro did even worse with its $90 million budget and a return of about $45 million. But what are the chances that Will Farrell will get the financing to do another one of his stupid movies compared to another small budget (relatively speaking) black film? Using these numbers as a guide it is actually more foolish to invest in Will Farrell than to invest in a black film. Yes it’s true that Land of the Lost (a very appropriate title) earned $65 million compared to The Great Debaters $30 million. But if people are looking only at the sales then those people should leave investing to the professionals, or at least leave the investing to people with a better understanding of what constitutes a good return for the money.
You wrote that we should have compared our black cinema today to black cinema 50-60 years ago instead of the 30-40 year range. But to do so would be to overlook the black cinema that we had 30-40 years ago. You originally wrote that the black characters in film wasn’t the hero or didn’t get the girl. But once upon a time they did. That fact should not be lost or ignored. The state of black cinema today is probably better than what black people had 50-60 years ago. But it pales in comparison to the black cinema of 30-40 years ago. The fact that we are not enjoying progress but instead are suffering setbacks should not be ignored or dismissed as a mistake of an incorrectly chosen date.
White people may not have flocked to see The Great Debaters. It was probably supported only by the black community. But nevertheless, it earned twice its investment. The same is true for the flick Boomerang. I don’t think white people flocked to see it. But it still earned a 200% ROI. And at the same time, white people didn’t flock to see Hillary Swank in Amelia. It cost $40 million to produce and has yet to hit the $20 million mark. Frost/Nixon barely covered its budget. But who is saying that it would be foolish to invest in white films?
You might say it does nothing to say that Hollywood is racist. I say it does nothing to say that Hollywood isn’t so much racist as it is greedy when black films are money makers instead of the money losers people assume them to be simply because they are black films and white people won’t like them. The assumption that black films just aren’t profitable because white people don’t go see them does not hold much water. If only the black community is making black films profitable then what’s the problem if it is a profitable film? If it was just a matter of money, it looks like the black films are just as profitable as their white counterparts. The black films are much lower budgets with decent returns. The financial support for their continued development appears to be a no-brainer despite the lack of widespread support from the larger, racially generic community that is predominantly white people. So what gives? Besides, somebody used to invest in those black films 30-40 years ago. What happened to make these films such a poor investment today?
So white people won’t go see a movie about the Haitian revolution. And? I don’t buy the argument that it is automatically a money loser because it tells the story of black people overcoming their white subjugators. But why do we even have to go there? There are tons of black movies that don’t have a thing to do with portraying white people as anything, negative or positive. There’s The Best Man with a budget of $9 million that grossed $34 million. There’s Waiting to Exhale with a budget of $15 million and grossed $80 million. Dreamgirls with its relatively generous budget of $75 million grossed $155 million. Brown Sugar had a budget of $8 million and earned $29 million. Barbershop, with its $12 million budget made $75 million in revenue. The movie Friday had a $3 million budget and turned $29 million at the box office. Even Akeelah and the Bee turned a profit with an $8 million budget and $18 million in revenue. No white people were harmed in the making of these films nor did they require hundreds of millions of dollars to produce.
This is a small sample. There are plenty other movies that have black themes without the need to down the white population. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the majority of black cinema films developed have nothing to do with white people what so ever. So why do you have to assume white people need to be negatively portrayed in order to make a black film? This is just another false assumption on your part. You are focusing on a fraction as a guideline for the whole of black cinema.
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