*Movies with predominantly African-American casts are truly running things at the box office nowadays.
Take a look at the current No. 1 film in North America “The Perfect Guy,” which boasts starring roles for Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy and Morris Chestnut. The success of the sexy thriller, which exceeded all expectations, marks the fifth straight weekend that films with primarily African-American casts have ruled the box office.
Prior box office champs include last week’s No.1, “War Room” and the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” which held a three-week reign on top before “War Room” replaced it. In fact, right now, the top 3 box office hits are films with mostly all-black casts.
Considering Hollywood’s record of not casting minorities regularly in leading roles, this is major feat and a potential sign of what more diversity could mean for Hollywood.
“The business people that run the film community, the people who invest their money, have a right to display and showcase the images they want to,” Gil Robertson, president and founder of the African-American Film Critics Association, told TheWrap.com. “But you hope at some point, from a purely business standpoint, that casting African-Americans and other minorities makes for a better return on their investment.”
Although the marketing behind “War Room” labeled it as a faith-based film, its lead actors — T.C. Stallings, Karen Abercrombie and Priscilla Shirer — are African-American. For “Straight Outta Compton,” African Americans made up 46 percent of those who saw the film, while 23 percent were Caucasians comprised 23 percent of the audience followed by 21 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 6 percent “other.” The F. Gary Gray-helmed feature boasted noticeable results with it holding the No. 1 R-rated August opening ever and the No.1 musical biopic.
Despite the success of films with blacks in leading roles, it could still take a little while for Hollywood to catch on. TheWrap references a report released last year by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, which noted that people of color played just 10 percent of lead roles in the 172 films in 2011, despite accounting for 36 percent of the U.S. population in 2010.
In addition, the study found that minority actors made up less than 10 percent of the casts in most films in 2011. “Movies with 31 percent to 40 percent minority casts — a reflection of how America looks — accounted for just 2 percent of all films,” TheWrap highlighted.
That said, the bleak picture doesn’t eliminate the potential for the powers that be to capitalize on film with black leads in order to serve a market that has been severely under-served for years.
“Hollywood is nothing if not pragmatic,” Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap. “If movies with content that speaks to audiences that are African-American, or Hispanic, or faith-based do well at the box office, it behooves the studios to make more movies for those under-served markets, and they will.”
For more of TheWrap’s story on the success of films with predominantly black casts, click here.