History: 'Us' Had The Biggest Opening Weekend For A Film Headlined By A Black Woman

March 26th 2019

Us, Jordan Peele's follow-up to Get Out, has been the subject of substantial critical and commercial acclaim. The film grossed a staggering $70 million in its opening weekend, making it the second-biggest opening of the year behind Captain Marvel, which opened with $153 million. In addition to that, Us also broke several box office records, including the best weekend for an original horror movie and the best weekend for an original R-rated film.

But there's another record that the horror film broke, and no one has seemed to report on it until now. Thanks to one of our Shadow and Act community members who tipped us off in our comments, we investigated and learned that Us made history as the highest domestic opening weekend gross for a film headlined by a Black woman.

The last record holder for this was Sanaa Lathan, who over a decade ago, was the top-billed actor in Alien vPredator, which grossed over $38.2 million in its opening weekend.

For this purpose, "headlined by a Black woman" means that a Black woman is the top-billed star in the movie's credits; they are the main face of the film, and their presence is used to sell it.

The top five highest-grossing films with a Black woman as the top-billed star, according to Box Office Mojo, are:

  1. Us (2019) - Lupita Nyong'o, $71M
  2. Alien v. Predator (2004) - Sanaa Lathan, $38M
  3. A Wrinkle in Time (2018) - Oprah Winfrey, $33M
  4. Girls Trip (2018) - Regina Hall, $31M
  5. Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010) Janet Jackson, $29M

Lupita Nyong'o's performance as Adelaide Wilson/Red has been the subject of critical acclaim, and she's already garnering 2020 Best Actress Oscar buzz for her dual role. Despite winning an Academy Award in 2014 for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Us is Nyong'o's first lead role, a fact that Jordan Peele told Shadow and Act was motivation for him to write the role for her.  Us is just the latest film to disprove Hollywood's biased stance that Black movies and Black leads don't sell. With the success of Us and Nyong'o's performance, here's hoping studios will stop leaving money on the table.

by Jordan Simon on March 26th 2019

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