News Column

Florence Morning News, S.C., Matt Tate column

November 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 21--Hollywood always unloads some of its big guns during the holiday season -- films like "Catching Fire," "Frozen" and "The Hobbit" sequel are poised to become huge hits over the next few weeks.

But even as the hype around those films has been considerable, one blockbuster slipped under the radar this past weekend, stunning distributors with its success.

"The Best Man Holiday," featuring a predominately all-African-American cast and crew in a follow-up to 1999's modest hit "The Best Man," tallied more than $30 million at the box office. But really the only surprise culled is how Hollywood routinely dismisses minority-driven films.

Too often, movies without African-American A-listers like Will Smith or Denzel Washington are marginalized in Hollywood's eyes. They are deemed niche films that won't cross racial lines, and thus do not receive the same amount of push as other, "broader" films receive. Yet, nearly all of Tyler Perry's movies opened at the top of the box office charts. "Think Like a Man" grossed nearly $100 million domestically last year.

Then there's Latino moviegoers, who somewhat quietly drove this year's "Instructions Not Included," which cost $5.2 million to make, to almost $100 million internationally, with half of that tally coming stateside.

It's way past time Hollywood advances its view of minorities. Just because someone is an African-American or Latino filmmaker working with ethnic characters and actors, their stories are universal, and studios are doing these films an injustice if they fail to market them beyond race. Theoretically, in a world without intolerance, we wouldn't even be discussing "The Best Man Holiday" as a "black film" because it is not about race. Sub out Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut and Nia Long for Paul Walker, Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson and we wouldn't be calling that a "white" film. It would just be another romantic dramedy with an ensemble cast, which "The Best Man Holiday" is.

With that said, it is not necessarily pejorative to acknowledge that a movie is a "black film" or a "Latino film" when the title is applicable, but it is wrong for Hollywood to use that admission and push these films through a lesser portal.

The effect is two-fold: It potentially decreases their chance to reach wider audiences and demeans any success as providential.

It's not luck when a white filmmaker makes a quality, likable film, so the same standard should apply to filmmakers of all races.

Matt Tate is the news editor at the Morning News. Reach him at 843-317-7284 or by email at mtate@florencenews.com.

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(c)2013 the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.)

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