The lazy notion that movies without well-known white leads won’t do well at the box office should be put to bed after this summer’s movie season. While the summer typically belongs to costume-wearing superheroes, aliens, monsters, and dinosaurs, this time diversity is the champ. Films boasting diverse casts, great stories—as well as those usual suspects listed above—won big time during their stays in movie theaters across the country and globe. Here are the films with leads of color that saved the summer box office.
Crazy Rich Asians
Case in point, Jon M. Chu’s rom-com Crazy Rich Asians pulled in an astounding $35 million opening weekend. Out of that number, $13 million accounted for Asian-American moviegoers. That is an impressive 38 percent compared to a 2017 report compiled by the Motion Picture Association, which also revealed Asian-Americans accounted for just 7 percent of movie tickets sold in 2017. The film has since brought in $25 million, earning the top spot in its second weekend at the box office and only suffering an impressive 6 percent drop. Keep in mind: movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice dropped 69 percent after its first weekend in theaters.
What some can definitely argue is that this boom at the box office was kickstarted by Disney and Marvel’s 2018 darling Black Panther, which pounced in theaters back in May. The film featured a predominantly Black cast and has now grossed $700 million domestically since its release six months ago. Banking on that film’s success, Avengers: Infinity War featured Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and played well to an even more diverse audience than that of previous Avenger films.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which brought in a big $411.8 million, fell short of 2015’s Jurassic World ($652.3 million), though it did manage to draw in a more diverse viewership than its predecessor. 52 percent of ticket buyers who saw the sequel were non-white. Also, the film’s casting of Justice Smith—an African American in a key supporting role—was a first for the famed movie franchise and sound reasoning for the diverse crowd.
The First Purge
Universal and Blumhouse’s The First Purge was a huge surprise this summer. The film was directed by African-American filmmaker Gerard McMurray and featured all Black leads such as Insecure‘s Y’Lan Noel and Lex Scott Davis. The film brought in $69 million only $10 million behind its previous movie, The Purge: Election Year, and played well with all demographics. Megashark movie The Meg exceeded expectations by bringing in $83.8 million and performed very well with Hispanic moviegoers, who accounted for 20 percent of ticket sales.
Last but certainly not least is Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. It’s earned $23 million since its theatrical release, making the movie Lee’s most successful film since 2006’s Inside Man. As far as who went to see the critically acclaimed motion picture, the break down are quite surprising. Caucasians (40 percent), African-Americans (34 percent), Hispanics (17 percent) went to theaters to see Lee’s movie. Boots Riley’s directorial debut Sorry To Bother You, which features a very diverse cast: Atlanta standout Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Power star Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun and Armie Hammer. Sorry To Bother You is on pace to become Annapurna’s highest grossing film, passing Katheryn Bigelow’s intense drama, Detroit.
Hollywood still has a long way to go, but based on these numbers—and the movies coming out featuring diverse casts and stories—it’s heading in the right direction.
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