In case you haven’t been paying attention, after last weekend, as Sergio noted in his box office report on Sunday, The Butler became the first “black film” of 2013 to surpass the $100 million mark at the box office. And by “black film,” I mean films that tell stories centered primarily around the lives of black characters.
In fact, it’s actually a very rare occurrence that a “black film” crosses the coveted $100 million mark (movies starring Will Smith aside). And it’s even more rare when it’s a “black film” directed by a black filmmaker – so rare that, it hasn’t happened in the last 23 years – not adjusted for inflation, which is key here. A film like Waiting To Exhale, for example, which was released in 1995, directed by a black filmmaker in Forest Whitaker, grossed over $67 million that year. Adjusted for inflation, that figure would be just about $100 million.
But even adjusted for inflation, you’d find very few films that tell stories about black people, AND that were directed by black filmmakers, with grosses of over $100 million. Part of the reason for that is that, within the studio system, black directors just haven’t always been given the opportunity to direct “black films” – especially those that did gross over $100 million in recent years, like Django Unchained, Dreamgirls, The Pursuit Of Happyness, and even Big Mommas House, which all grossed over $100 million, in their years of release, un-adjusted for inflation.
So Lee Daniels is now officially a member of a club with very few members.
Last year, Think Like A Man (directed by a black filmmaker in Tim Story) almost got there, grossing over $91 million. Before that film, Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail almost did it in 2009 grossing just over $90 million.
But this year just might be a year in which we see two “black films” by black directors cross the $100 million mark – the other one being The Best Man Holiday.
Quite an amazing feat, congrats to Lee, the cast, and crew!