Over the weekend, Sanaa Lathan’s thriller The Perfect Guy took the top spot at the box office, raking in more than $26 million and once again proving Black folks are eager to see themselves on the big screen. While the reviews of the film have been tepid, The Perfect Guy’s “surprising” opening followed Straight Outta Compton’s three-week dominance and War Room’s unforeseen win.
Still, Hollywood is shocked.
Wow! A film with black protagonists is #1 at box office! A shocker! What a surprise! How did it happen! What does it mean! *blank stare*
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) September 14, 2015
The Best Man Holiday did it, as did Think Like A Man, Ride Along, About Last Night, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, No Good Deed, and too many Tyler Perry films to mention. As a matter of fact, one of the most lucrative franchises in movie history, the Fast and the Furious, is also one of the most diverse.
Despite “over performing” in Hollywood’s eyes, the industry seems to always, always be shocked when Black films make money…but why?
The success of Empire, Blackish, Scandal, How To Get AWay With Murder, the Haves and the Have Nots, and Being Mary Jane prove Black audiences are out there and are hungry for GOOD content that features people like them. Yet, Hollywood seems to rationalize every “win” at the box office as an anomaly. As Forbes film critic Scott Mendelson pointed out, however, it’s not a fluke.
“It happens all the time, we claim to be shocked every time, and yet the other studios don’t take note because it’s treated as a fluke,” he wrote. “It’s not a fluke, but rather the logical end result of audiences starved for movies starring people who look like they do as well as the fact that trashy melodramas like The Perfect Guy used to be the bread-and-butter of Hollywood and now count as rarities now matter who is starring in them.”
The difficulty Black filmmakers face getting their projects funded and produced in Hollywood seems absurd given the way Black films have performed at the box office over the last few years. You’d think major studios would act out of their own economic benefit and tap into a vibrant community of moviegoers who are begging to see themselves in great films on any given weekend, but as my mama always says, “That’s too much like right.”