As The New York Times reports, this weekend marked the fifth consecutive weekend that a movie with a predominantly black cast was the highest-grossing film at the North American box office. Five weekends in a row! This weekend, that movie was The Perfect Guy, a relationship-gone-wrong thriller starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut.
With a gross of about $26 million, The Perfect Guy comes on the heels of Straight Outta Compton, which held the top spot at the box office for three weekends in a row, and War Room—a religious, family-oriented movie with a predominantly black cast—which, as Forbes noted, stole first place from Compton over Labor Day weekend.
While studies show that Hollywood is terrible at diversity, these box office wins prove that audiences will come out to see flicks starring people of color. As Sanaa Lathan told Access Hollywood earlier this month:
"I've been in the business for 20 years and I've done a lot of movies, from romantic comedies to dramas, and I know for a fact that people of all races see them… It's not a niche thing. Black movies are American movies."
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Tommy Oliver, who produced The Perfect Guy, said:
"The studio gave me an opportunity to work on something where this is a film with black leads but it's not a black movie… It's not an 'urban' movie in any way, shape or form. Race is a complete nonissue."
Back in 2012, when Think Like A Man topped the box office, some film critics and media reporters called it a surprise. It shouldn't have been; the book was a best-seller, and the audience was under-represented in theaters. Since then, many movies with predominantly black casts have topped the box office or done very well, among them, The Butler, 42, Best Man Holiday, No Good Deed, and a few Tyler Perry flicks. Scott Mendelson at Forbes writes of The Perfect Guy's opening:
It’s not a fluke, but rather the logical end result of audiences starved for movies starring people who look like they do as well as the fact that trashy melodramas like The Perfect Guy used to be the bread-and-butter of Hollywood and now count as rarities now matter who is starring in them.
The Perfect Guy got terrible reviews, so its hold on the box office may be short-lived. But the Times reports that ticket buyers were 70% female; obviously there are women out there interested in seeing this type of movie. Combine this with the fact that Samuel L. Jackson—a black man—was recently certified as the actor with the highest box office gross by Guiness World Records, and it's puzzling why, in a study of over 700 films, only 30.2 percent of the 30,835 speaking roles were female, and for the top 100 films of 2014, 73% of all roles were white. Why does Hollywood continue to ignore women, Latinos, Asians and black people when there's money to be made?