This weekend’s box office heavyweight battle was between “Kong” and “Logan” with “Kong: Skull Island” the victor, grossing $61 million, beating “Logan’s” $37.8 million by a wide margin.
In fact, the R-rated Logan took a big second week drop of 57%, which is very surprising considering the raves reviews and incredibly strong word of mouth the film has received. One can only guess that perhaps its appeal has been limited to the hardcore Marvel fans, and it’s not reaching broader to general filmgoers. But then what explains the huge success of last year’s equally violent R-rated “Deadpool” – one could argue also a film based on a Marvel character with a supposedly hardcore, but limited fan base – which went on to gross $363 million in the U.S. alone? I have no clue, so you tell me.
But don’t cry for “Logan” since it’s already a huge success with a worldwide gross of $343.5 million so far, heading for half-a-billion. And besides, this could be all moot by next weekend with the release of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which analysts are predicting could gross somewhere around $120 million by Sunday, blowing both “Kong” and “Logan” out of the water. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Universal/Blumhouse’s “Get Out” continues to be a huge smash, coming in third with $21 million and over $111 million domestically to date; at the rate it’s going, it will become the highest grossing film in Blumhouse’s library to date. It’s already the fastest Blumhouse film to reach $100 million; keep in mind that it was made for $4.5 million!
Lately, you’ve probably read articles claiming that the success of “Get Out” (the most over analyzed movie in recent history) and “Moonlight” represent a sort of turning point in black film – a “new black cinema” that is taking root; a new type of black film that is more challenging, intellectual, artistic and more attuned to current events and social conditions. Of course, what these opinion writers are likely really saying is that they’re hoping for more “Get Outs” and “Moonlights” from black filmmakers with black casts, and less of the usual romcoms and silly comedies which have defined black cinema in Hollywood specifically for the past decade.
The problem with this thinking is that, when these pundits write about black cinema, what they really mean are black films that are produced or released by Hollywood studios or major independent distributors like A24, since these are likely the only black films many of them know about. The fact of the matter is, the overwhelming majority of black films produced and released every year are independently made, completely outside the studio system, and have been that way since the silent film era with the Johnson Brothers and Oscar Micheaux – films that rarely get any kind of major national theatrical release.
These black films, for the most part, tour the film festival circuit and a few, if they’re really lucky, might get picked up for a theatrical or maybe a VOD release.
In “Moonlight’s” case, although it was an independently produced film, it was helped by the fact that Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company got behind it. It also didn’t hurt that the film got its premiere at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, which is always attended by the top critics and influencers in the business – the same film festival where “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins worked as a programmer for a several years before he made “Moonlight,” and the very same film festival where Jenkins first met execs from Plan B.
If it wasn’t for that coincidental set of events, we may not be talking about “Moonlight” today. And to make my point, if it was looked at as just another black indie relegated mainly to black film festivals, and not much more beyond that, even if it was still the same film we’ve all seen today, would these so-called film experts have written about “Moonlight” then? I suspect not. If they would actually attempt to discover black films beyond their usual, comfortable environment, they would discover that there is no shortage of the kind of “new black cinema” that they now, all of a sudden, have found out exists.
In terms of box office this weekend, “Moonlight” has now hit $27 million, and looks like it could actually hit $30 million domestically, which is likely more than many guessed it would gross, including myself. The film is doing excellent business overseas, with over $20 million in international box office, and heading towards $50 million worldwide, as it still continues to open in other territories, which means it should break above $50 million in global ticket sales. For a $1.5 million (budget) coming-of-age drama with a gay black American male protagonist, that’s noteworthy!
But another thing to get off my chest has been the response to “Get Out,” with many treating it as if it’s The Second Coming. Granted, the film is clever and well done, but is it really all that? For me at least, it wasn’t the earth shattering film that “will change black cinema forever,” as some are implying. Donald Glover’s FX show “Atlanta” was much more genuinely revolutionary; its elliptical storylines and journeys into pure surrealism were something that I think black films or black TV hadn’t really done before – at least not at the commercial level.
“Get Out” borrows a lot from other horror films (particularly 1975’s “The Stepford Wives”) and in terms of its humor, its clear influence is the genius of Richard Pryor, who, in many of his routines, dealt brilliantly with black paranoia. But I suspect that the popularity of the film is more of a millennial thing, or as I like to call it: “These kids today…”
There have been past horror films that have tackled racism, as well as examined and commented on black social issues, such as Rusty Cundieff’s “Tales from the Hood,” Bill Gunn’s “Ganja and Hess,” James Bond III’s 1990 film “Def by Temptation,” the Hudlin brothers’ HBO film “Cosmic Slop,” the 1930’s race film “The Devils Daughter,” and the 1940 monster race movie “The Son of Ingagi.” I could even make a case for Wes Craven’s “The People Under the Stairs” as well as “Blacula” with William Marshall. My point is that, “Get Out” is not new or different, but just a continuation of an old tradition. Howeve, to those who have a limited knowledge of horror films, black cinema or even black humor before the 1990’s (those “kids” again), it probably all looks new to them. When it comes to film, nothing really is new; rather, just a new way of doing what has already been done.
As for the rest of the weekend’s box office bunch, the list looks pretty much like it has for the past couple of weeks. Although I should note that “Hidden Figures” continues to excel, with a domestic gross of over $162 million and a global gross of $206 million. How many other films can you name that are led by black women characters and have crossed $200 million in worldwide grosses?
This weekend’s top 12 grossing films below:
1) Kong: Skull Island WB $61,015,000
2) Logan Fox $37,850,000 Total: $152,656,733
3) Get Out Uni. $21,072,600 Total $111,054,445
4) The Shack LG/S $10,050,000 Total: $32,268,691
5) The LEGO Batman Movie WB $7,820,000 Total: $159,023,660
6) Before I Fall ORF $3,107,910 Total: $9,036,722
7) Hidden Figures Fox $2,765,000 Total: $162,865,186
8) John Wick: Chapter Two LG/S $2,700,000 Total: $87,423,211
9) La La Land LG/S $1,770,000 Total: $148,445,589
10) Fifty Shades Darker Uni. $1,629,250 Total: $112,922,485
11) Lion Wein. $1,361,350 Total: $48,684,795
12) Fist Fight WB (NL) $1,325,000 Total: $30,515,496