It's about our community and our spirituality!

Black People Didn’t Need Their Own Buses

“BPM, you’re missing my point. Your initial post was about Avatar-the highest grossing movie of all time and something which left every other movie in the dust…”Shady_Grady


The original post wasn’t about Avatar leaving other films in the dust and not making money. The original post was actually an analogy about technology and how Avatar uses the latest in cinema photography to gather as much information about an image as possible in order to make a more complete three dimensional image of a film about a fantasy land in the future and a hundred light years away that was more realistic than reality. While movie technology is trying to get information from more perspectives to generate better graphics and more realism, we have a tendency to shut our eyes to different perspectives of what is happening in the black community in order to reduce our ability to develop a more complete picture of the impact our racially oriented society is having on the black community and race relations. This is just the first of many points that I have made that you simply do not comprehend.

If you would take a moment to look at an issue from more than just one perspective you would have more of an opportunity to see an issue with a better understanding of the full spectrum of what is going on.  Case in point, your insistence to simply look at a movie’s gross revenue numbers.  I do understand your point. A movie like Avatar makes more money and that is all that matters to you. The problem is that your point operates in a vacuum that fails to take into consideration the cost of a film compared to its return on investment. If a film earns a $100 million dollars but cost a billion to make, it is not as good an investment as a film that cost one million dollars to make, but earns $10 million dollars. Okay? No one is saying that the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie didn’t earn a billion dollars at the box office. But if the movie took half a billion to make is that movie a better return of the initial investment than something like Antwone Fisher that cost $3 million to make and returned $30 million dollars? A wise investor would say no. For every dollar invested in the Pirates movie, the investor earned a dollar. For every dollar invested in Fisher, the movie returned $10. A good investor wouldn’t simply look at how much money is coming back. They also pay attention to how much money it took to get that payback. Now do you understand?

Let me give you another example. Let’s say I did something really stupid and took a trillion dollars to make a single movie. I put all my eggs in one basket. But I get lucky. The movie returns my investment and earns another ten billion dollars bonus. I would’ve earned 1 cent for every dollar I invested. Now ten billion dollars is a lot of money to be made and it would shoot to the top of every chart in your little list of URLs. But that’s not the point. I had to risk a trillion dollars in order to make ten billion dollars. That is not a smart investment. The risk of a trillion dollars is not worth a measly ten billion dollars. A smart investor would tell you to run from anyone who pats him or her self on the back for such, relatively speaking, small returns.

Now compare that to the investment of $10 million dollars on a film that earns its investment plus another $50 million. That investment earned $5 for every dollar invested. Plus, the initial investment was so comparatively small for a studio that if the film didn’t earn money it would be bad but it wouldn’t leave the studio critical. It would be little more than a ripple on somebody’s financial sheet. However, a loss of a trillion dollars would probably ripple through the country’s economy like a tsunami.

Now, with your complaint regarding the comparison of Land of the Lost to the Great Debaters you really have missed the point that is being made. It wasn’t to show that black films are under funded. The point is that we have one movie making commodity, Will Farrell, being compared to another movie making commodity, the black community. You argue that black films are not profitable therefore they don’t get funding. You claim that Hollywood is all about making money and they don’t make bad investments such as black cinema. If that is the case, why is Hollywood continuing to invest in Will Farrell movies? I don’t understand why you would think that the comparison is unfair. Will Farrell continues to get financial investments. Your theory that it is all about money and that’s why black films don’t get made doesn’t hold true. People in Hollywood continue to invest in money losers such as Will Farrell. Just because you cannot see or understand this point doesn’t mean it has not been made.

And I will admit that a movie’s gross revenue of 200% over its budget doesn’t necessarily mean that the studio got a full 200% on its investment. But nevertheless, the comparison of a movie coming in at 200% over in revenue is much more attractive than the movie with revenue that comes in at a paltry 30% below its initial budget. I hope you’re not trying to say that the assumption that one film has higher revenue earning percentages than the other is no reason to assume that one film is more profitable than the other.

You sound like the type of person who, when other black people started talking about the racism of the Montgomery Bus Company, would have made the suggestion that the bus company was just trying to make money by catering to their white patrons. They were the bigger population after all. And if white people wanted black people to sit in the back of the bus, it was just their way of assuring that their profitable white business would remain more profitable.

And now, with all that out of the way, you want me to give you an answer. You seem to have all the answers you need. You claim that Hollywood isn’t being racist because of racism. They just want to make money from white people. They are willing to invest in a commodity like Will Farrell over and over again because he’s done so well for their investments but white people won’t go see a black film so there’s no way a black film can be profitable. The only solution is for black people to create and patronize black films. And how exactly is the black community going to not only create films without investors, but market them and distribute them as well? Films need financing. Films need studios. Films need distributors. Films need marketing. You can’t just run to Best Buy, get a camera, call yourself a film producer, put your film on YouTube, and then sit back to watch the money from your revenue stream pile up.

If you truly want to know what I think, what you would call an answer, I would suggest that people in the black community take an honest assessment of our black history and look at what inspired the white community to quit taking our black ancestors and elders for granted. Going back to the Montgomery Bus analogy, the black community didn’t develop its own bus company. Black people didn’t say forget the white people we will just get our own buses. The black community made the existing bus company realize that the black community had value and significance and if they wanted black people to ride their buses like the white patrons, the bus company would treat black people like its white patrons. Black people said they wanted change. Instead of putting up with racial discrimination and making excuses on why it was tolerable, the majority of the black community got together and made a stand. It wasn’t necessary to separate. What was necessary was to come to an understanding that we are in this together. You can’t do that with a white bus company and a black bus company. That would be separate and unequal.

If I could pull the black community’s strings I would make black people realize that we do matter. Whether it was directly a result of racism or because of greed from trying to make money off of a racist population, if Hollywood don’t want to support black films, then black people shouldn’t be supporting Hollywood. It might be difficult. A lot of us like to see a lot of films that have absolutely zero connection to the black community. But if we want to see more black films then I think the sacrifice is more than worth it.

You asked me what I’m going to do about it. That’s why I blog about it. That’s why I write about it nearly everyday. That’s why I don’t go see films like Avatar and help feed the Hollywood frenzy. The last movie I paid to see was The Book of Eli. Not exactly a black film. But Denzel Washington does so much for the black community I really don’t have a problem supporting a movie featuring him. He actually contributes to the production of black films like Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters. My personal boycott of Hollywood normal and my personal investment in black films and the black community and me writing about these issues and trying to educate other people to my perspective is all that I can do. If there is more I’ll be willing to do it. Just don’t expect me to go to Best Buy, get a camera, and start my own production company.


Saturday, March 13, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Hollywood, Life, Racism, Thoughts


  1. There is no discussion if you insist upon putting your points in my mouth. You brought up Will Farrell; I didn’t. I made no comparison between Will Farrell and the entire range of “black” films. Eddie Murphy’s and Halle Berry’s films underperform just as Farrell’s movies do…

    Ad hominem attacks are usually when reasonable discussion starts to break down.

    Comment by Shady_Grady | Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Perhaps you are correct in at least this respect. There is no discussion when you feel that I am putting my points in your mouth. Maybe if you had stronger points to make, if the things you said had some foundation of validity and weren’t so easily refuted, you could participate in a discussion with a more intelligent argument. You don’t seem to understand that when somebody says something like, Hollywood doesn’t invest in money losing films and black films are money losers, you’ve made two assumptions that can be quickly disproved. Hollywood continues to invest in Will Farrell movies that do relatively poorly at the box office. Therefore, the theory that Hollywood doesn’t invest in money losers is bogus. The other assumption, that black films don’t make money, is also proven baseless because many black films have done extremely well making a great return for their investors.

      But because these arguments have been refuted, you now accuse me of attacking you and breaking down our reasonable discussion. Maybe you should get your own blog and that way, you can write what you want and not have to worry about somebody putting their points in your mouth. There are plenty of people who share your sentiment that black people should develop, market, and distribute black films and white people should be free to do the same. If you were back in Montgomery, Alabama during the bus boycott, you sound like you would be one of those black people telling the black community to quit trying to reach an understanding with the white community and just buy, maintain, and market our own bus system and quit trying to interfere in white people’s business. A lot of people who support racism and keeping things separate say the same thing. Your blog should do well. I’ve wasted enough of your time. Feel free not to reply. That way, I will have less of a chance to my point on what you’re saying.

      And for the record, just because a film has a black person in it doesn’t make it a black themed film. It’s been a long time since Halle Berry did a black themed film. And I believe that when she did do a black themed film, it did financially well. The same is true about Eddie Murphy. His black themed films do better than his movies intended for the larger, more mainstream market. That should tell you and a lot of other people something. If only you could bother yourself to listen.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Reply

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