The success of this year’s Straight Outta Compton has reignited a discussion on the topic of the success of Black films in Hollywood.
Financially, the film broke records for being the highest grossing biopic and rated R film to date. The film’s director F. Gary Gray has also become the highest-grossing Black director of a single film in domestic sales. However, the predictions for the film did not foresee the mega success the film would go on to become.
“Studios are using the same methods that they have for the last 15 years, which is already hit and miss — and it’s more miss with Black films,” said Jeff Clanagan, CEO of CodeBlack Entertainment.
Straight Outta Compton is not the only film that has broken expectations. War Room, which focuses on the marriage of a Black family, is a Christian film directed by Alex Kendrick. So far, it’s grossed $52 million on just a $3 million budget. What makes the two films different is not the subject matter but who is behind the camera. War Room has a white director, which continues the trend of white film makers telling Black stories while Straight Outta Compton has Black creatives on both sides.
“You have no one predicting the box office who’s African-American,” Wilson Morales, editor of Black-Film.com told Variety last year. “You have no one out there engaging with the black audience and understanding what’s appealing to them.”
In 2015, diverse films have done extremely well in the box office and most of those films came from Universal Studios. Furious 7, which was released by the studio, has grossed $1.5 billion world wide with an “untraditional” cast. The Perfect Guy which failed to be a critical success, has nevertheless grossed $44 million on a budget of only $12 million.
Morales points out that few box office reporters, analysts and studio distribution chiefs are Black and tend to expect very little form Black films. Until Black people are equally represented in all phases and segments of film culture, these inaccurate predictions will continue.