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Hollywood underestimates “The Best Man Holiday”

Hollywood by Choice

Gail Choice | 11/21/2013, midnight

It came as no surprise to Black audiences that “The Best Man Holiday” was a box office winner, but to mainstream critics and the Hollywood hierarchy it apparently was a big surprise.

“The Best Man Holiday,” made on an estimated production budget of $17 million, nearly doubled that on its opening weekend, bringing in an estimated haul of more than $30.5 million.

An IMDbPro Box Office report claimed: “As the only new nationwide release this weekend, ‘The Best Man Holiday’ exceeded all expectations with a very impressive $30 million haul. Still, superhero sequel ‘Thor: The Dark World’ managed to hang on to first place.”

As Lucas Shaw wrote for The Wrap, the film joins “12 Years A Slave,” “The Butler,” and other movies from Black filmmakers that have somehow surprised people with their success. Headlines such as ‘Best Man’ Surprises, But ‘Thor’ Still Repeats This Weekend’ and terms like “overperformed” at the box office raises major questions about how mainstream Hollywood and critics actually view films made by Black directors with a predominantly Black cast.

The L.A. Times reported a tweet by Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List of most the promising unproduced screenplays and an outspoken voice on race and Hollywood. “So are we calling “The Best Man Holiday” yet another overperforming Black film or are we ready to admit that the model is wrong?”

Defamer’s (a Hollywood online news site) blunt headline: “Critics need to stop being shocked that Black films do well” stirs the pot.

Director Malcolm D. Lee said “I didn’t like the thing people were saying that we are overperforming,” Lee said in an interview Monday. “It’s been demonstrated time and again that African American movies perform. But the reaction is still ‘wow,’ like they’re still surprised.”

The L.A. Times went on to report that Lee, Leonard and others believe many of the assessments are based on unrealistically low expectations. Similar reactions, they say, followed the release of the Steve Harvey adaptation “Think Like a Man” last year, which topped so-called pre-release estimates with a $33 million opening on its way to a $91 million total.

As director Lee Daniels said in an interview this summer before the release of his film “The Butler,” “What does it take for people in Hollywood to realize Black audiences will come out to see a movie? Does ‘The Butler’ need to make $100 million?” (It did.)

The L.A. Times talked to the president of distribution at Universal, Nikki Rocco, who, while acknowledging the predictions were off, defended them as . . . well, defensible, saying “it was fair” to expect something more like “the high teens.”

Rocco goes on to say she would never have expected “The Best Man Holiday” to open so strongly, not even “in my most non-lucid moment.” For the full article go to www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-best-man-holiday-black-films.

Rocco is not alone, even online moviefone wrote: ‘No one expected “The Best Man Holiday” to enjoy such a huge debut. Even its distributor, Universal Studios, was predicting an opening in the high teens. After all, it’s the sequel to a movie that came out a full 14 years ago, one with no huge A-list stars, one that opened with $9 million on the way to a $34.1 million total. (At today’s ticket prices, that’s a $14.3 million debut and a $54.3 million final gross.) So even the most optimistic pundits predicted a premiere of no better than $22 million for “The Best Man Holiday.” Please read the full article online, you will find it interesting and informative. http://news.moviefone.com/2013/11/18/box-office-best-man-holiday/

At the bottom of all this scientific, analytic bally-hoo is downright racism. The movers and shakers of Hollywood don’t believe Black people have any power or authority, and to them we simply don’t matter. There are a few who ‘squeak’ through, but we shouldn’t be able to name them … and we can.

The majority of Black writers who write exclusively for Black publications don’t even get invited to screenings of Black-themed movies … and many of us don’t even think about seeing the mainstream films … we’re simply not invited.

One thing is for sure, we have a certain power at the box office when we exercise it. And Malcom D. Lee is cashing in on his box office success, he is now in talks for “The Best Man 3” sequel.