The Best Man Holiday

Last week brought Thor: The Dark World. Next week brings The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. So in between those two titans the only film going into wide release is The Best Man Holiday.  Which is smart counter-programming.

Going by the title, it appears that they’re not playing up the “sequel” nature of The Best Man Holiday, which is smart as the first film (The Best Man, natch) came out in 1999, and though it’s surely got a healthy fanbase, the appeal here seems to be similar to that of Think Like a Man, which was a surprise hit last year. Or that is to say, it appeals to what polite society refers to as an “urban market” or — to be blunt — a movie for African-American audiences.

American cinema has struggled with race relations just as the country did, and though Blaxploitation is credited for reignited the major studios with a salable product after nearly going bankrupt making expensive musicals, major studios don’t chase black audiences, other than a few films a year. Yes, Tyler Perry is a cottage industry, but the majority of big budget studio films feature few African American characters, even if Will Smith was once the biggest movie star in the world. The biggest modern problem is that international audiences supposedly prefer white actors, so this disparity could get worse.

It’s also interesting to note that the tenor of the “black picture” has changed. Where in the early 90′s, African American cinema was defined by Spike Lee and by the gang-related films like Menace II Society and Boyz N the Hood, nowadays films about black characters (that aren’t directed by Tyler Perry) tend to be focused on what appear to be middle class or upper middle class career-driven people. There’s no gang cinema these days, and if there are gangster characters, it seems that they’re often played as generic thugs that are just as likely to be white as Latino or Asian or African American. With the rise of Breaking Bad (and to be fair the drug’s rise in popularity), Meth is now the big nasty boogeyman drug of choice, where ten to twenty years ago it was crack. But with Meth you can use bikers, etc. So where Holiday was worried about being called racist by portraying drug dealers as black, now they can avoid the problem, but in doing so offer less roles to black actors.

So that The Best Man Holiday got made is a small miracle. Perhaps there will be a paradigm shift, and there could be a rise of young black filmmakers, but right now the pool seems stagnant.

As for this weekend:

  1. Thor: The Dark World - $41.5 Million
  2. The Best Man Holiday – $17.9 Million

And then next week we see how the world has reacted to the Hunger Games phenomenon.

What are you going to watch this weekend?